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i|)re$ttt(tMut ELLA SMITH ELBERT «88 

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I am a slave, a favored slave 

At best, to share his splendor, and seem very blest; 

When weary of these fleeting charms and me, 

There yawns the sack, and yonder rolls the sea. 

What ! am I then a toy for dotard's play, 

To wear but till the gilding frets away?— Byron's Corsair, 

VOL. I. 






Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1835, by 

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts* 

boston : 


No. 3 Water Street. 






Arabia . 


Assyria . 

Babylon . 
Bali . . 
Barbary States 
Bedouin Arabs 
Birmah . 
Borneo . 

Celebes . 
Ceylon . 
Cochin China 
Corea . , 


. 43 

. 245 
, 176 
. 202 
. 36 

. 48 
. 23 

. 23 

. 203 
. 232 

. 38 
. 133 
[ 199 

. 28 
. 231 
. 201 
. 186 
. 143 
. 44 
. 137 



. 42 

Druses 34 

Dutch settlers in Af- 
rica 298 

Egypt 216 

Fox Islands . . .214 

Georgia 47 

Hindostan . 
Hottentots . 



Japan 212 

Java 187 

Jews 1 

Kurile Island . 

. . 215 

Loo Choo . . 

. . 210 

Lycia . . . 

. . 27 



Malacca . . 
Moors of Africa 

New Guinea . 
New Holland . 


. 141 
. 232 

. 206 
. 207 

Palmyra, Queen of . 30 

Persia 72 

Philippine Isles . . 209 

Siam 139 

Siberia 177 


Sumatra .... 195 
Syria 31 

Tartary 162 

Thibet 130 

Timor 204 

Troy 29 

Turkomans ... 34 
Turkey 52 

Van Diemen's Land 208 


Rebecca bringing water for the camels of Isaac. 


The ancient patriarchs led a quiet pastoral life, 
far removed from those excitements which kindle 
the avarice and ambition of men in modern times, 
Their chief care was to increase their flocks ; and 
for this purpose they removed their tents, from 
time to time, near the most verdant pastures and 
abundant fountains. Their habits and manners 


partook of the simplicity of their occupations ; of 
this there is sufficient proof in the story of Ja- 
cob's courtship and marriage. 

In those times, when the earth was thinly peo- 
pled, an increase of laborers was an increase of 
wealth; hence, physical strength, being the quality 
most needed, was most esteemed. To be the 
mother of a numerous family was the most honor- 
able distinction of women ; and the birth of a son 
was regarded as a far more fortunate event than 
the birth of a daughter. Under such circum- 
stances, women were naturally considered in the 
light of property ; and whoever wished for a wife 
must pay the parents for her, or perform a stipu- 
lated period of service, as Jacob did for Rachel. 
Sometimes, when parents were desirous to unite 
their families, the parties were solemnly betrothed 
in childhood, and the price of the bride stipulated. 
Marriage in those primitive times consisted merely 
in a formal bargain between the bridegroom and 
the father of the maiden, solemnized by a feast. 

We are not told how far the affections of women 
were consulted in these arrangements, but there is 
every reason to suppose that they were passively 
guided by others. 

Among the Israelites, as well as among the na- 
tions with whom they sojourned, innocence was 
by no means universal. The world seems very 
soon to have grown old in sin. Even in the re- 
motest times, there are allusions to a class of 
women openly and shamelessly vicious ; and it is 


hardly possible for the imagination to conceive of 
a crime that is not mentioned in the laws of 
Moses. The deception practised by Abraham and 
his son Isaac, lest the beauty of their wives should 
be the occasion of their own death, betrays habits 
and manners sufficiently violent and profligate. 
That the husbands of Sarah and Eebecca should 
have been willing thus to consult their own safety, 
at the risk of exposing them to insult, is by no means 
extraordinary among a people where polygamy pre- 
vailed ; for in all such countries the value placed 
upon women has an origin essentially low and de- 
praved. We are told that Sarah herself consented 
to pass for the sister of her husband ; and both in 
Egypt and in Gerar the handsome stranger was 
ordered into the household of the king. That mar- 
riage was acknowledged as a protection, and that 
the concealment of it left her defenceless, is shown 
by Pharaoh's earnest expostulation with Abraham : 
" What hast thou done unto me ? Why saidst thou, 
She is my sister ? Why didst thou not tell me she 
was thy wife ?" The same is likewise implied by 
the reproof which Abimelech, king of the Philistines, 
gave to Abraham, and afterwards to his son Isaac, 
under similar circumstances. 

The occupations of the ancient Jewish women 
were laborious. They spent their time in spinning 
and weaving cloth for garments, and for the covering 
of the tents ; in cooking the food, tending the flocks, 
grinding the corn, and drawing water from the wells. 
When Abraham entertained the three strangers under 


the tree before his dwelling, " He hastened into the 
tent unto Sarah, and said, make ready quickly three 
measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon 
the hearth." Jacob found Rachel tending the flocks 
of her wealthy father ; and when Abraham's servant 
sought the beautiful Eebecca as a wife for Isaac, the 
damsel not only drew water for him, but for his 
camels also. 

The performance of these tasks does not necessa- 
rily imply a deficiency of respect for women, for at 
that period kings and princes were in the habit of 
reaping their own grain, and slaying their own cattle. 
The condition of women then bore a general corres- 
pondence to that of the men, as it ever since has 

The manners were generally rude, and females of 
course were not treated with the politeness which 
has prevailed in modern times. Thus when the 
daughters of Jethro came to draw water for their 
flocks, the shepherds of Midian drove them away, 
notwithstanding their father was high priest of the 

Jewish husbands seem to have had a discretionary 
power of divorcing their wives ; and no bargain or 
vow made by a woman was binding, unless made in 
the presence of her father or husband, and with theii 

Before the time of Moses, women appear to have 
been incapable of inheriting the estates of their 
fathers, even when he died without other heirs. The 
daughters of Zelophead brought before Moses, the 


priests, the princes, and the congregation a petition, 
setting forth that their father had died in the wilder- 
ness without sons ; on which account they thought 
themselves entitled to a share of his possessions. 
Moses granted the petition, and ordained that in fu- 
ture, when a man died without sons, his inheritance 
should descend to the daughters. 

We know little of the amusements of Israelitish 
women; but in the early periods of their history^ 
when both sexes were almost constantly occupied in 
procuring the means of subsistence, it is not proba- 
ble that amusements were either frequent or various. 
Music and dancing were unquestionably among the 
most ancient recreations of human beings. I ima- 
gine they were coeval with language itself ; for they 
were but varied manifestations of those emotions 
and thoughts which words were framed to express. 
Among modern highly civilized nations, dancing is 
indeed regulated by merely artificial rules, and has 
as little to do with character as the projection of a 
map ; but in more simple forms of society, the na- 
tional dances, like national tunes, are an embodiment 
of the characteristic passions of the people : such are 
the war dances of the Indians, and the voluptuous 
dances of the East. 

Moses speaks of singing men and singing women; 
and throughout the Old Testament there is fre- 
quent mention of music and dancing at sacred festi- 
vals. After Pharaoh and his host had perished in the 
Eed sea, we are told that " Miriam the prophetess 
took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went 


out after her with timbrels and with dances. And 
Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he 
hath triumphed gloriously. " 

Deborah and Barak likewise joined in a song of 
triumph, after the defeat of Sisera. 

Whether music and dancing were entirely confined 
to public and solemn occasions, is uncertain ; but we 
can hardly imagine that it was so. The ancient 
Israelites, like other people who live in similar cli- 
mates, no doubt highly enjoyed family meetings in 
the open air, each one under the shadow " of his own 
vine and fig-tree ;" and to have had musical instru- 
ments, without using them on such occasions, would 
have been a strange perversity. 

In the later periods of Jewish history, a class of 
public singers probably existed, whose character was 
similar to such classes now found in the East ; this 
may be inferred from the words of the son of Sirach, 
u use not much the company of a woman who is a 

In the patriarchal ages the Jewish women must 
have enjoyed a large share of personal freedom ; for 
we read of all ranks engaged in the labors of the 
field, and going out of the cities to draw water. 
That they were not usually secluded from visiters 
seems to be implied by the question which the stran- 
gers asked Abraham, " Where is Sarah, thy wife ?" 
Indeed, living as they did in tents, and removing so 
frequently, it would have been no easy matter to have 
preserved the complete privacy that exists in the 
jseraglios of the East, But as the Jews grew more 


numerous and wealthy, the higher ranks indulged in 
a much greater number of wives, and kept them more 
carefully secluded. Solomon had seven hundred 
wives, and three hundred mistresses ; but these, like 
horses and chariots, were probably valued merely 
as the appendages of ostentatious grandeur. Ta 
prevent the increasing tendency to polygamy, a law 
was made forbidding any man who took a new wife 
to diminish the food and raiment of his other wives,, 
or in any respect to treat them with less attention. 

The part of the house appropriated to females 
was called the armon. It was universally toward 
the east, and entirely separated from the apartments 
of the men. None but the nearest male relations 
were ever allowed to pass the threshold. Any in- 
fringement of this law was punished with great se- 

The houses in Palestine were built with flat roofs, 
and in such a manner as to inclose in the centre a 
large, open, quadrangular court, called the chazer or 
thavech. This court was as completely sheltered 
from public observation as the most private apart- 
ment. It contained a fountain shaded by palm trees^ 
and screened by an awning which could be drawn 
over it whenever occasion required; it was orna- 
mented with columns, vases of flowers, and tesselated 
marble, according to the wealth of the owner. Here 
the women pursued their occupations, played with 
their children, and enjoyed the cool evening air, at 
seasons when there was no danger of the approach 
of strangers. The arrival of male visiters was 


doubtless proclaimed in season for them to retire, as 
it now is in Christian convents and eastern se- 
raglios. When king David went out against Absa* 
lorn, his women assembled on the house-top to wit- 
ness his departure, as they are now allowed to do in 
oriental countries, when they wish to see any pro- 
cession or show. From various passages of Scrip- 
ture there is reason to suppose that people generally 
slept on the house-tops in summer, as they still do 
in many of the fine climates of the East. 

The occupations of women during the prosperous 
reign of Solomon may be gathered from his Pro- 
verbs : " Who can find a virtuous woman ? Her price 
is far above rubies. The heart of her husband shall 
safely trust in her, and he shall have no need of spoil. 
She seeketh wool and flax, she worketh willingly with 
her hands. She riseth while it is yet night, and 
giveth meat to her household, and tasks to her maid- 
ens. She stretcheth forth her hand to the distaff; her 
fingers hold the spindle. She openeth her hand to 
the poor, yea, she stretcheth forth her hands to the 
needy. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry ; 
her clothing is silk and purple. She looketh well to 
her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 
Give her of the fruit of her hands ; let her own works 
praise her in the gates." 

That women sometimes transacted business, and 
made bargains in their own name, seems to be im- 
plied in the Proverbs : " She considereth a field and 
buyeth it ; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a 
vineyard. She maketh fine linen and selleth it. She 


delivereth girdles to the merchant." It is likewise 
certain that women went with their husbands to Je- 
rusalem, and worshipped in the temple on solemn 

Even in those days there was no dearth of invec- 
tive against the follies and vices of the sex. Solomon 
praises good women in the most exalted terms ; but 
he implies their extreme rarity by the question, " Who 
can find a virtuous woman ?" The son of Sirach 
says, " All wickedness is but little to the wickedness 
of a woman." " From garments cometh a moth, and 
from women wickedness." " A loud crying woman 
and a scold shall be sought out to drive away the 
enemies." " A drunken woman and a gadder abroad 
causeth great anger." 

Perhaps it never occurred to those wise men, that 
the system of polygamy was calculated to stifle the 
best emotions of the female heart, and to call all its 
worst passions into exercise. But even under the 
most barbarous and tyrannical forms of society, the 
salutary influence of good and sensible women is 
felt and acknowledged. The son of Sirach says, 
" Blessed is the man that has a virtuous wife, for the 
number of his days shall be doubled ;" and the Old 
Testament abounds with similar remarks. 

The spirit of that age was not favorable to intel- 
lectual improvement ; but as there were wise men, 
who formed exceptions to the general ignorance, and 
Were destined to guide the world into more advanced 
states, so there was a corresponding proportion of 
wise women ; and among the Jews, as well as other 


nations, we find a strong tendency to believe that 
women were in more immediate connection with 
Heaven, than men. Miriam, the sister of Aaron, was 
a prophetess, and seems to have possessed great in- 
fluence. Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, was not 
only a prophetess, but for many years a judge in 
Israel ; and we are told that Barak refused to go up 
with his army against Sisera, unless she went up 
with him. At a later period, there was Anna the 
prophetess, who for many years remained in the 
temple of the Lord, night and day, in fasting and 
prayer. When Joseph and Mary brought the child 
Jesus into the temple, she immediately " gave thanks 
to the Lord, and spake of him to all them who 
looked for redemption in Israel." The belief in 
women who were under the influence of evil spirits, 
is shown by the story of the witch of Endor. 

That women were imbued with the sternness which 
marked the barbarous character of men, is evident in 
the story of Jael, who drove the nail through the 
temples of Sisera, her sleeping guest ; and of Judith, 
who deliberately bewitched the senses of Holofernes, 
that she might gain an opportunity to sever his head 
from his shoulders. 

Josephus tells us that Mary, the daughter of 
Eleazer, who dwelt beyond Jordan, of eminent wealth 
and rank, fled away to Jerusalem during the Roman 
invasion, and was there when the city was besieged 
by Caesar's troops. The little property she had been 
able to bring safely out of Perea was seized by the 
rapacious guards, from whom she received continual 


insult and injury. At last famine prevailed to a 
dreadful degree in Jerusalem, and it became impossi- 
ble for her to obtain any food. Goaded to madness 
by long continued hunger, she killed her own infant 
for food, saying, " Why should I preserve thee, mis- 
erable babe ! If the Romans spare our lives, we must 
be slaves; and the seditious villains among us are 
more terrible than either of these things. Be thou 
my food and a by- word to the world, which is all that 
is now wanting to complete the calamities of the 
Jews." The soldiers perceived that food had been 
cooked in her house, and demanded their share of it. 
She produced the remnant of her horrid meal, say- 
ing, in mockery, " This is mine own son ; and what 
has been done is mine own doing. Eat of this food; 
I have eaten of it myself. Do not pretend to be more 
tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a 

The seditious soldiers, accustomed as they were to 
bloodshed and crime, went out trembling and afraid. 
When the famishing people heard of it, they desired 
to die, and esteemed those most happy who had died 
before such miseries were witnessed. 

The dress of the ancient Hebrew women probably 
differed but little from that worn by the daughters of 
Israel at the present day. A robe which fell in ample 
folds, fastened by a girdle ; loose flowing sleeves con^ 
fined by bracelets ; braided hair ; and a turban, from 
which descended a long, transparent veil. Garments 
of silk and fine linen, of scarlet and purple, are 
often mentioned in connection with people of rank 5 
VOL. I. 2 


and Ave are told that Tamar wore a robe of divers 
colors, according to the custom of the king's un- 
married daughters. Jewels were in use, even in the 
days of the patriarchs ; for when Isaac sent his ser- 
vant in search of Rebecca, he sent bracelets and ear- 
rings, of silver and of gold ; and when Moses built a 
tabernacle for the Lord, " Both men and women 
came, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought 
bracelets, and ear-rings, and rings, and tablets, all 
jewels of gold, an offering unto the Lord. And all 
the women that were wise-hearted did spin with 
their hands and brought that which they had spun, 
both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of 
fine linen." The Israelitish mirrors were made of 
polished brass, and the women were so partial to 
them that they carried them everywhere, even to 
the most solemn places of worship. The use of false 
hair among the ancient Jews seems to be implied by 
the fact that Absalom's hair sold for two hundred 

The Jews endeavored, both by law and custom, to 
keep their nation unmixed by foreign intermarriages ; 
and it was a favorite plan with them to unite dif- 
ferent branches of the same family. Thus the wife 
of Abraham was his sister, by the father's side ; and 
Isaac and Jacob both sought wives among their kins- 
men. When a man died without heirs, the nearest 
relation was bound to marry the widow ; and if he 
refused to do so, she publicly accused him before the 
elders, loosed the shoe from his foot, spat in his face, 
and said, " So shall it be done unto the man that will 


not build up his brother's house." And his name 
was called in Israel, " The house of him that hath his 
shoe loosed." 

Notwithstanding the effort to keep the blood of the 
nation, and even of individual families, unmixed from 
generation to generation, the rule was sometimes 
broken through. Thus Moses married an Ethiopian 
woman ; the wife of Joseph was daughter of the 
priest of On ; and Solomon married the daughter of 
Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 

It is generally supposed that formal ceremonies at 
a wedding were first prescribed by Moses. Accor- 
ding to the rabbies, the appointed days were Friday for 
a bride who had never been married, and Thursday 
for a widow. The contract was read and signed by 
ten witnesses, who were free and of age. The bride 
was veiled and given to the bridegroom by her pa- 
rents. Her father said, " Take her according to the 
law of Moses ;" and the husband answered, " I take 
her according to that law." Benedictions were then 
pronounced both by the parents and the guests. 
Tne maidens sang a marriage song, and the men 
danced around the bridegroom, while the women 
danced around the bride. The feasting continued 
seven days, unless the bride were a widow, in which 
case they continued but three days. If a man mar- 
ried a number of wives in quick succession, he was 
bound to allow a feast of seven days to each. At a 
later period the form was somewhat changed. In 
the presence of ten witnesses, the bridegroom said 
to the bride, " Be thou a wife to me according to the 


law of Moses, and I will worship and honor thee, ac- 
cording to the word of God, and will feed and govern 
thee, according to the custom of those who worship, 
honor, and govern their wives faithfully. I give thee 
fifty shekels for thy dowry. " 

The story of Samson and Delilah seems to imply 
that, custom did not allow a young man to seek a 
girl in marriage without the intervention of his pa- 
rents. He said to his father and mother, " I have 
seen a woman of the daughters of the Philistines ; 
now therefore get her for me to wife ;" and when his 
parents started objections, he still pleaded, " Get her 
for me ; for she pleaseth me well." The idea of ap- 
plying to the beautiful Delilah in person does not 
seem to have occurred to his mind. 

During the magnificent prosperity of Israel, mar- 
riage ceremonies were conducted with more pomp 
than they had been in the days of the patriarchs. 
Instead of the bridegroom's paying a certain sum of 
money, or performing a certain period of service for 
his bride, it became customary for wealthy parents 
to give a handsome dowry with their daughters. This 
is the natural tendency of society ; because with the 
progress of wealth and refinement women become 
expensive, rather than profitable, in a pecuniary 
point of view. 

On the day of the nuptials, the bride was conduct- 
ed by her female relations to the bath, where she was 
anointed with the choicest perfumes, her hair per- 
fumed and braided, her eyebrows deepened with 
black powder, and the tips of her fingers tinged with 


rose-color. Her companions then arrayed her in a 
marriage robe of brilliant color, which fell in ample 
folds to her feet. The girdle and bracelets were more 
or less costly, according to the wealth of her pa- 
rents. A flame-colored veil was surmounted by a 
crown, usually of gold ; for this reason, a bride 
among the Hebrews was called the crowned. Before 
she left the bath, her friends from all quarters sent 
in their wedding gifts. The bridegroom was anointed 
and crowned in a similar manner, by the young men 
of his family. 

The bride, accompanied by her nurse, was con- 
veyed in a litter from her father's house, followed by 
all her female friends and relations closely veiled. 
The procession was headed by seventy young priests 
bearing flambeaux of oil and pitch, and by a multi- 
tude of persons carrying the clothes, jewels, and 
furniture, which had been presented to the bride ; 
each person carried but one thing. Next came the 
bridegroom and his friends, in their richest apparel. 
Then came the bride in her palanquin : and servants 
and children closed the train. 

When they arrived at the bridegroom's house, the 
bride anointed the door-posts with oil, and adorned 
them with woollen fillets. Then the maidens lifted 
her over the threshold, which formed the boundary 
between her single and married life. The nuptial 
train entered the courts, and the bride solemnly took 
possession of her apartments in the armon, where a 
feast was prepared for her and her female friends. 
When all had partaken plentifully, both men and 


women assembled in the inner court. The maidens 
led the bride, and the young men the bridegroom, to 
the parents, who placed the right hand of the wife 
within the right hand of her husband, and pronounced 
upon them the paternal blessing. " Blessed be thou, 
O Lord our God, who didst create Adam and 
Eve J Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, who caus- 
eth Zion to rejoice in her children ! Blessed be thou, 
O Lord our God, who makest the bride and the 
bridegroom to be glad together ! The God of Abra- 
ham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, be with 
you, and help you together, and give his blessing 
richly upon you ! Jehovah make the wife that 
comes into thy house like Rachel, and like Leah, who 
built up the house of Israel !" 

The marriage festivities continued seven days, 
during which time numerous gifts were exchanged 
between the newly married and their guests. 

When a man believed he had reason to be jealous 
of his wife, he could at any time compel her to sub- 
mit to the public ordeal of drinking the water of 
jealousy. On such occasions, the wife was brought 
before the priests and elders, in the midst of a crowd 
of men, women, and children, who collected from 
curiosity. When the culprit stood in the presence 
of her judges, she was left alone, and if neither per- 
suasion or sternness could extort from her a confes- 
sion of guilt, they decreed that she should drink the 
water of jealousy, and take the oath of purgation. 
Being then led forth from the sanctuary, the priest, 
who was appointed for the purpose, threw her jewels, 


veil, and turban on the ground, dishevelled her 
braided hair, rent her garments from the top of the 
neck to the breast, and bound a strip of bark about 
her, in place of a girdle, saying, " Thou hast forsaken 
the manner of the daughters of Israel, who cover 
their heads, and hast followed the manners of the 
heathen, who go with their heads uncovered." 

Then the men spat on the ground, and the women 
uttered cries of abhorrence. The husband gave the 
priest the " offering of jealousy, the tenth part of an 
ephah of barley-meal, with no oil or frankincense 
poured thereon." Then the priest filled an earthen 
vessel with holy water from the laver beside the 
altar, and put into it dust from the floor of the 
tabernacle. With an elevated and solemn voice he 
said, " If thou art innocent, be thou free from the 
curse of this bitter water; but if thou art guilty, 
may Jehovah make thee a curse among thy people, 
and bring on thee all the curses written in his law." 

If the woman answered, expressing her willingness 
to submit to the ordeal, the priest waved the " offer- 
ing of jealousy" before Jehovah, and mixing the 
meal with salt, he burned it in the fire. Then the 
curses of the law were written on a roll, and washed 
off in the vessel of water wherein dust had been 
mingled. The woman drank the water of cursing, 
with her eyes lifted toward the holy of holies. 

If, after a long pause, she was perceived to be un- 
harmed, a shout of joy burst from the multitude, 
and hallelujah resounded from the temple through 
the streets of the city. Her parents and husbancl 


congratulated her on this proof of innocence, her 
hair was braided anew, her jewels and veil restored, 
and she was conducted home in triumph. 

There was such a firm belief that any guilty per- 
son who drank the " water of cursing" would be 
immediately swollen with painful and loathsome 
disease, that few would have ventured to abide by 
the ordeal, unless they were conscious of inno- 
cence ; and if any one had been sufficiently daring to 
run the supposed risk, the priests would not have 
been easily deceived by a bold woman, who tried to 
imitate the quiet fearlessness of virtue. 

By the Mosaic law, an unfaithful wife was stoned 
to death, and the partner of her guilt shared the same 

Among the customs of Jewish women, it is men- 
tioned that " the daughters of Israel went yearly to 
lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite, four 
days in the year." It is well known, from Scripture 
history, that Jephthah's daughter went out with tim- 
brels and dances to meet her father, when he return- 
ed victorious over his enemies ; and that she cheerfully 
consented to be sacrificed, in order to fulfil a vow he 
had made unto the Lord. «r 

It is not recorded what ceremonies were observed 
in commemoration of her death ; but it was probably 
done after the manner in which they were accustomed 
to bewail women who died unmarried. The pro- 
cession were clothed in mourning garments, with 
dishevelled hair, and ashes upon their heads, and as 
they moved, they wrung their hands and uttered loud 



lamentations. It was not allowable to bathe, o) 
anoint, during the days appointed for mourning* Jew- 
ish widows mourned for their husbands at least foi 
the space of ten months, and it was deemed ex- 
tremely indecorous for them to marry again in thai 

Children mourn a year for their parents. They 
do not put on black, but wear the same clothes they 
had on at the death of their father, however tattered 
and dirty they may be. Mourning for children, 
uncles, and aunts, lasts one month, during which 
period they do not cut their nails. When a husband 
returns from the funeral of his wife, he washes his 
hands, uncovers his feet, seats himself on the ground, 
and remains in the same posture, groaning and weep- 
ing, until the seventh day. 

The custom of hired mourners to weep at fune- 
rals, and excite others to tears, was common with 
the Jews, and other ancient nations. Jeremiah 
says, " Call for the mourning women, that they may 
come ; and send for cunning women that they may 
come ; and let them make haste, and take up a wail- 
ing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, 
and our eyelids gush out with water." 

Women while in captivity wore their hair shaven, 
and nails cut close, in token of grief, A new-born 
Hebrew infant was washed and rubbed with salt. 
When it was forty days old, the father offered a 
lamb of the first year and a turtle-dove, the first as 
a burnt-offering and the latter as a sin-offering for 
the mother. She prayed Avhile the victims were 


slain by the priest, who afterwards sprinkled her 
with the blood. At the feast of Pentecost an in- 
fant child was solemnly presented by its parents be- 
fore Jehovah, in the temple* 

There was a Jewish sect called Essenes, who were 
similar to the Pythagoreans, and in many points re* 
sembled the Shakers of modern times. Their name 
was derived from a Persian word signifying resem- 
blance to a hive of bees. There was an entire com- 
munity of goods among them, and very strict subordi- 
nation to their elders. The tendency of their doc- 
trines was to keep the body in complete subjection 
to the soul, which they believed to be immortal. 
They lived in seclusion, never mixed with the world, 
drank only water $ ate only bread and hyssop, and 
had great contempt for women. They always wore 
white garments, and spat behind them, in token of 
abhorrence to the world they had left. Marriage 
was entirely forbidden among the higher class of 
this sect, and among the inferior classes it was 
allowed only with very strict limitations and severe 
restraints. This society was kept up by people who, 
from various motives, left the world to join them, or 
saw fit to intrust them with the education of their 

None of the priests of Israel were allowed to marry 
a widow, or a divorced woman, or one whose charac- 
ter was not irreproachable. 

The Jews are now scattered all over the earth ; 
but they everywhere adhere to their ancient faith and 
usages ; even in the United States, where every thing 


is in the most direct opposition to the old Hebrew 
spirit of regulating, defining, bounding, and limiting. 

This singular people are very numerous in Poland, 
where they have erected stately synagogues and 
academies. The city of Hamburgh has been called 
the " lesser Jerusalem," on account of the number of 
Jews who reside there. They are numerous in 
Turkey, and have colonies in India. 

A German traveller gives the following enthusi* 
astic description of the Jewesses in Poland : " I may 
here say a few words about the fair daughters of 
Israel, whom I saw at Kalish, decked in ornaments 
and rich apparel, in honor of the Sabbath. The 
pearl bands, worn as head ornaments by the Polish 
Jewesses, are so peculiar, that it is almost impossi- 
ble to convey a correct idea of them by mere de- 
scription. These bands are seen only in Poland, and 
their form obviously denotes their ancient and ori- 
ental origin. They consist of strings of pearls in- 
termingled with gold, forming altogether an elabo- 
rate piece of architecture, whose construction it is 
not easy to describe. 

" A Jewess of the higher class, adorned with her 
pearl hair-band and gold neck-chain, from which is 
frequently suspended an ancient gold coin, is an ob- 
ject of no common interest, especially if she be as 
beautiful as I have often seen Jewesses in Poland. 
The events of thousands of years seem to be record- 
ed in their soul-beaming countenances. They de- 
serve to be stored in the memory, as a portion of the 
pure, beautiful, and sublime of this world. Dignity, 


feeling, tender melancholy, and, not unfrequently, 
deep-seated sorrow, is expressed in the features of the 
fair daughters of Israel, whose notions of virtue and 
decorum are as rigid as the laws of their forefathers. 
This rule, like every other, has of course its excep- 
tions. Few will deny that beauty consists more in 
expression than in the form of the features. Many 
women who are pronounced beautiful produce but 
little, or perhaps even an unfavorable impression, 
merely from the want of intellectual spirit. But 
the utmost beauty of form combined with expression 
leaves nothing to be wished for ; and this will be 
acknowledged by all who have seen the Jewesses of 

" A faithful adherence to their national costume 
serves to heighten their natural attractions." 

The modern Jewish women light a lamp every 
Friday evening, half an hour before sunset, which is 
the beginning of their Sabbath. The custom is said 
to be in remembrance of their original mother, who 
first extinguished the lamp of righteousness, and to 
remind them o'f their obligation to rekindle it. In- 
stead of the scape-goat, they now use white fowls. 
At the appointed season every mother of a family 
takes a white hen, and striking it on the head, says, 
" Let this die for my sins ; she shall die, but I shall 

Women did not succeed to the Jewish crown ; two 
instances, however, occur in their history, where 
the supreme power was in female hands. Athaliah, 
the daughter of king Omri, and mother of Ahaziah, 


nearly destroyed the royal family, and usurped the 
throne for six years. At a later period, Alexander 
Jannoeus left the crown to his wife Alexandra during 
her life, and then to either of his sons whom she 
might think proper to appoint. 

The ancient Jews were of the same dark com- 
plexion as the Arabs and Chinese ; but their history 
furnishes a remarkable exemplification of the influ- 
ence of climate. They are dispersed all over the 
globe, and wheresoever they sojourn, those who 
marry among Gentile nations are cast out of the 
synagogue ; therefore whatever changes have taken 
place in their color must have been induced by cli- 
mate and modes of life. There are now Jews of all 
complexions, from the light blonde of the Saxon to 
the deep brown of the Spaniard, and the mahogany 
hue of the Moors. The black Jews of Hindostan 
were originally slaves purchased by the Jews who 
sought shelter in that country, and who, with more 
consistency than Christians have manifested, emanci- 
pated their bondmen when they became converts 
to their religion. 

Little is known of ancient Assyria, and of Baby- 
lonia, which was at first a part of Assyria. Being 
a wealthy and luxurious nation, their women were 
of course treated with a degree of consideration un- 
known among savage tribes. The manner in which 
Babylonish women are spoken of in the Bible implies 
great magnificence of apparel ; and as there is al- 
ways a correspondence between the moral and intel- 


lectual condition of the sexes, it is not probable that 
women were universally and totally ignorant in a 
country where the sciences made such advancement, 
and written laws were used. 

The Babylonians manufactured rich embroidery, 
tapestry, fine linen, and magnificent carpets. They 
were distinguished for elegance and refinement of 
manners ; were very fond of music, and had a great 
variety of instruments. Singing and dancing girls 
were selected from the most beautiful to entertain 
the wealthy at their meals ; but we have no means 
of knowing whether ladies of high rank considered 
it a degradation to dance and sing before strangers. 
It is generally supposed that the Babylonian women 
were admitted to social and convivial meetings with 
men ; and it is on record that they sometimes drank 
too freely of the wine. Weaving and embroidery 
were no doubt generally practised by women, either 
for amusement or profit. With regard to marriages, 
they had a yearly custom of a peculiar kind. In eve- 
ry district three men, respectable for their virtue, were 
chosen to conduct all the marriageable girls to the 
public assembly. Here they were put up at auction 
by the public crier, while the magistrates presided 
over the sales. The most beautiful were sold first, 
and the rich contended eagerly for a choice. The 
most ugly or deformed girl was sold next in succes- 
sion to the handsomest, and assigned to any person 
who would take her with the least sum of money. 
The price given for the beautiful was divided into 
dowries for the homely. Poor people, who cared 


less for personal endowments, were well content to 
receive a plain wife for the sake of a moderate por- 
tion. No man was allowed to provide a husband 
for his daughter ; and no man was permitted to take 
away the woman he had purchased, until he had 
given security to make her his wife. The feasts 
by which wealthy Babylonians commemorated their 
marriages became at last so extravagant that laws 
were made to restrain them. The Assyrians wor- 
shipped Venus under the name of Mylitta. Some 
of the ceremonies observed in her temple are unsuita- 
ble to be described in these pages. 

When the Babylonians were besieged by the Per- 
sians, they strangled all the women except their 
mothers, and one other in each family, to bake their 
bread. This was done to prevent famine ; and the 
lot fell upon women probably because they were of 
less importance in carrying on the war. 

It is not known whether females were admitted 
into the priesthood ; but a woman always slept in 
the temple of Jupiter Belus, whom the Chaldean 
priests declared to have been chosen by the deity as 
his especial favorite from among all the nation. 

Two remarkable women are mentioned in the 
brief records we have of Assyria and Babylon. 
Their names are Semiramis and Nitocris. 

When Ninus, king of Assyria, besieged Bactria, 
it is said the attempt would not have been success- 
ful, had it not been for the assistance of Semiramis, 
who was at that time the wife of one of his principal 
officers. She planned so skilful a method of attack, 


that victory was insured. Ninus became a passion- 
ate lover of the sagacious lady, and her husband com- 
mitted suicide. Soon after this she became queen. 
Some say she requested the monarch to invest her 
with uncontrolled power merely for the space of 
five days ; and as soon as a decree to this effect had 
been made public, she caused him to be put to death ; 
but other authors deny this. She succeeded Ninus 
in the government of the Assyrian empire, and to 
render her name immortal, she built the great city 
of Babylon in one year. Two millions of men were 
constantly employed upon it. Certain dykes built 
by order of the queen, to defend the city from inun- 
dations, are spoken of as admirable. 

Altars were built and divine honors paid to the 
memory of Semiramis. 

The other celebrated queen was Nitocris, wife of 
Nabonadius, who in the Scripture is called Evil 
Merodach. She was a woman of great endow- 
ments. While her voluptuous husband gave him- 
self up to what the world calls pleasure, she 
managed the affairs of state with extraordinary 
judgment and sagacity. She was particularly fa- 
mous for the canals and bridges which she caused to 
be made for the improvement of Babylon. 

Such instances as these do not indicate a degraded 
condition of women. Yet the Assyrian monarchs 
had seraglios, at least in times later than Nitocris ; 
for we are told that the effeminate Sardanapalus 
spent his chief time in the apartments of his women, 
learning to handle the distaff, and imitating their 


voice and manners. This fact proves that spinning 
was not unusual with women of high rank. The 
exceeding love of perfumes which prevails in the 
East characterized Assyria. When Babylon was 
conquered, all the evils arose which might have been 
expected among a voluptuous people so long accus- 
tomed to luxurious living. Fathers and husbands, 
rather than relinquish their own expensive habits, 
were not unfrequently willing to receive the shame- 
ful price of a wife or daughter's beauty. 

The ancient Lycians, supposed to be descendants 
of the Cretans, always took their names from their 
mothers, and not from their fathers. When any one 
was asked to give an account of his ancestors, he 
mentioned the female branches only. If a free wo- 
man married a slave, the children were free ; but if a 
citizen married a concubine or a foreigner, his chil- 
dren could not attain to any political dignity. The 
inheritance descended to daughters, and sons were 
excluded. Some say the Lycian women were treat- 
ed with this remarkable degree of respect, because 
their prayers to Neptune once removed an extraordi- 
nary salt blighting dew from the fields. Others sup- 
pose it was because their ancestors, the Cretans, de- 
scended from the goddess Thetis. A woman presided 
over the different companies into which the Cretans 
were divided, had the entire management of the 
household, and at table gave the choicest food to 
those who had most distinguished themselves. The 
origin of these peculiar customs is obscured by fable, 
vol. i. 3 


but they probably arose from some great benefit early 
conferred upon the state by women. The Lycian men 
mourned for the dead by assuming female garments. 

Artemisia, queen of Caria, so famous for her wis- 
dom and bravery, was descended from the Cretans 
on the mother's side. By the death of her husband 
she was left with the government of the kingdom, 
until her son should be of age. She served with 
Xerxes in his expedition against Greece, and fur- 
nished five of the best ships in the fleet. She endea- 
vored to dissuade the Persian monarch from ventur- 
ing a naval battle at Salamis ; but her judicious 
advice not being accepted, she commanded her por- 
tion of the fleet, and fought with the utmost bravery. 
When her vessel was pointed out to Xerxes, he ex- 
claimed, " The men on this occasion behave like 
women, and the women like men." The Athenian 
conquerors considered themselves so much disgraced 
by having a female antagonist, that they pursued 
her with the utmost vengeance, and offered ten thou- 
sand drachmas to whoever would take her alive. But 
she escaped in safety to her own kingdom by means 
of an artifice ; for having attacked one of her own 
allies, with whom she was displeased, the Greeks 
supposed her vessel to be one friendly to their cause. 
Some other stratagems, which she used to obtain 
power over her enemies, were entirely unworthy of a 
generous mind. 

Xerxes entertained so high an opinion of Artemi- 
sia, that he confided to her care the education of the 
young princes of Persia. Her statue was erected at 
Lacedsemon, among those of the Persian generals. 


She became in love with a young man of Abydos, 
who did not return her passion ; in consequence of 
which she caused his eyes to be put out while he 
slept, and then, in a fit of remorse, jumped from the 
promontory of Leucas into the sea. 

There was another Artemisia, daughter of a Ca- 
rian king, who married Mausolus, famous for his 
beauty, She was so much in love with her husband, 
that after his death she mixed his ashes with her 
drink. She erected a monument to his memory, so 
magnificent, that it was called one of the seven won- 
ders of the world ; and from this circumstance the 
word mausoleum is derived: She offered large re- 
wards to the literary men of the age, for the best 
elegiac panegyric on her husband. Two years after 
his decease, she died of grief. 

Little is known of the Trojan women. Their 
condition was probably very similar to that of wo- 
men in other nations of the same period. Andro- 
mache, though a princess, and well beloved by her 
husband, fed and took care of the horses of Hector. 
It is to be presumed that she had a good deal of skill 
in embroidery, for we are told that she made a re- 
presentation of the death of Hector, surrounded by 
garlands. The dreams and prophecies of Cassandra, 
daughter of king Priam, betray the usual tendencies 
to invest women with supernatural powers. 

The Asiatic Greeks, particularly those of Ionia, 
were distinguished for voluptuous refinement, and 


the beauty and gracefulness of their women. The 
celebrated Aspasia, first the mistress, and afterwards 
the wife of Pericles, was of Ionia. Her wit and elo- 
quence must have equalled her beauty ; for we are 
told that Plato loved to discourse philosophy with 
her, and that Pericles sought her advice in great 
political emergencies. 

Zenobia, queen of Palmyra and the East, is the 
most remarkable among Asiatic women. Her genius 
struggled with, and overcame, all the obstacles pre- 
sented by oriental laws and customs. She is said 
to have been as beautiful as Cleopatra, from whom 
she claimed descent. She knew the Latin, Greek, 
Syriac, and Egyptian languages ; had drawn up, for 
her own use, an abridgment of oriental history; 
and read Homer and Plato under the tuition of Lon- 
ginus. She was the companion and friend of her 
husband, and accompanied him on his hunting excur- 
sions with eagerness and courage equal to his own. 
She despised the effeminacy of a covered carriage, 
and often appeared on horseback in military cos- 
tume. Sometimes she marched several miles on 
foot, at the head of the troops. Having revenged 
the murder of her husband, she ascended the throne, 
and for five years governed Palmyra, Syria, and the 
East, with wonderful steadiness and wisdom. After 
a long and desperate resistance she was conquered 
by the Roman emperor Aurelian, who had grown 
jealous of the increasing wealth and power of his 

The conduct of Zenobia after her capture tarnishes 


»11 the lustre of her character. She who had conduct- 
ed many battles by her wisdom, and gained them 
by her valor, trembled when she heard the ferocious 
Roman soldiery demand her death ; and she sought 
to save herself by sacrificing her best friends to the 
resentment of the conqueror. 

Zenobia, almost weighed down with jewels, and 
chained with gold, walked, a splendid captive, in the 
triumph of Aurelian. That emperor, however, 
treated his unfortunate rival with a degree of cle- 
mency unusual in ancient times. He gave Zenobia 
a very elegant villa, about twenty miles from Rome. 
The great Queen of the East sunk into the obscurity 
of private life, and her daughters married into noble 

Many of the customs of the ancient Jews still 
prevail in Syria. The rude mill by which they 
grind their corn is turned by two women, as it was 
in the days of our Saviour. The excellent wells in 
the neighborhood of mount Lebanon are still the 
resort of women, who carry thence large jars of wa- 
ter on their heads, as the daughters of the patriarchs 
did of old. They are very timid ; and if a stranger 
approaches the fountains they immediately draw 
their veils. In common with many other Asiatic 
nations, they bake their bread in small cakes against 
a heated brick wall. When the cake is sufficiently 
done, it drops of itself. This no doubt was the 
manner in which Sarah " baked cakes on the hearth" 
when Abraham entertained the strangers in his tent. 


When a Syrian lady is betrothed, her lover sends 
her a ring and other jewels, according to his rank 
and wealth. After these are accepted, she is not 
allowed to see her intended husband, or any gentle- 
man but her nearest relatives, until the wedding 
ceremonies are completed. There is no period fixed 
for the bridegroom to send for the bride ; but during 
the fourteen previous days he repeatedly sends pre- 
sents to her ; and five days before she is summoned 
from her father's house, he sends a confidential wo- 
man with jewels for her head, neck, and arms. Un- 
der the care of this woman, the bride is bathed, her 
hands stained red, and her face painted like a doll. 
Presents from friends are sent to the bath, and the 
bride walks several times round the fountain, adorned 
with a succession of new dresses and ornaments, ac- 
companied by lighted candles, and the joyful cries of 
her attendants. After this, she is required to sit in 
a corner with closed eyes the whole day, except at 
the hours of eating. The relatives of the bridegroom 
escort her to his house, mounted on a horse, with her 
eyes still closed, accompanied by musicians, women 
bearing torches, and mules loaded with the dresses, 
ornaments, or household utensils, which she has 
received. As the procession passes along, the people 
invoke blessings on the bride. 

The Syrian women ride astride on horseback, 
veiled ; but they are less scrupulous than most 
Asiatic women about removing their veils, when 
comfort or convenience requires it. 

Miss Abbot, the British consul's daughter, who 


made a journey into the mountains of Syria, speaks 
of the inhabitants as remarkable for their kindness 
and simplicity. They had never before seen a Eu- 
ropean lady, and their curiosity was much excited. 
The men stopped her horse to present bouquets and 
benedictions ; and the women crowded her apartments, 
bringing baskets full of delicious grapes and figs. 
The young lady says : " As I passed, blessings were 
invoked upon me, as upon an Arab bride. I was 
everywhere received with the affectionate welcome 
of an old friend, rather than with the courteous 
greeting of a stranger. The women were extremely 
neat in their appearance, and though evidently very 
poor, would accept of no remuneration for their offer- 

The Syrian women wear a very high odd head- 
dress, called the t ant our a, not unlike the horn of a 
unicorn. It is made of wood, pasteboard, and tinsel, 
or of the precious metals set with gems. The inha^- 
bitants of the mountains are less tawny than those 
who live in the plains. About Lebanon their com- 
plexion resembles that of the French. The women 
of Damascus and Tripoli are celebrated for their 
fairness, and for their beautiful dark eyes, which are 
usually visible, though a veil covers the rest of the 

Among many sacred relics which abound in Syria, 
they profess to show the kitchen and fireplace of 
the virgin Mary, and the fountain where she was 
accustomed to d;aw water. 

In the mountains of the Anti-Libanus are a pecu- 


liar class of people called Druses. They hare 
scarcely any religion, observe neither fasts nor festi- 
vals of any kind, and allow brothers and sisters to* 
intermarry. They live in a very secluded manner, 
and rarely take several wives. The women are ex- 
tremely modest and industrious. They grind corn 
and make bread after the old scripture fashion. 

The Druses divorce their wives on the slightest 
pretext. If a wife ask her husband's permission to 
go out, and he says, " Go," without adding, " but 
come back again>" she is divorced. Though both 
should wish it, they cannot live together again 7 
without being re-married according to Turkish forms. 
These people are very jealous, but rarely punish a 
criminal wife with death ; divorce is the usual 

The Turks in Syria, as well as in other parts of 
their empire, kill a woman as soon as they suspect 
her ; and the fine incurred by a seducer is enormously 

The Turkomans are a wandering tribe, living in 
tents like Bedouins. They are peculiar for giving a 
dowry with their daughters, instead of receiving a 
price for them. They are exceedingly scrupulous 
about the honor of their women. If a brother should 
see his sister receiving a kiss even from her betrothed 
lover, he would shoot the poor girl on the spot ; yet, 
with the usual inconsistency of mankind, they are 
themselves extremely fond of intrigues, and pride 
themselves not a little on success. 

The Turkoman women are very industrious and 


ingenious. They make the tent-coverings of goat 
hair^ and weave carpets scarcely inferior to those of 
Persia. They use no shuttle, but pass the thread 
with their fingers. They have peculiar skill in dy- 
ing various brilliant colors. Nearly all the labor 
falls upon them. The men do nothing but feed the 
horses and camels at sunset. 

Syria is a part of the Turkish empire, and of 
course governed by Mohammedan rulers. 

Dr. Clarke gives the following account of a pacha 
whom he visited at Acre. " The harem of the se- 
raglio is accessible only to himself. Early every 
evening he regularly retired to this place, through 
three massive doors, every one of which he closed 
and barred with his own hand. Even to have 
knocked at the outer gate after he had retired 
would have been punished with death. No person 
in Acre knew the number of his women, but from 
the circumstance of a certain number of covers being 
daily placed in a kind of wheel or turning cylinder, 
so contrived as to convey dishes to the interior, 
without any possibility of observing the person who 
took them. He had from time to time received 
presents of female slaves ; but after they entered his 
harem, none but himself knew whether they were 
alive or dead. If any of them were ill, he brought a 
physician to a hole in the wall, through which the 
sick person was allowed to thrust her arm, the pa- 
cha himself holding the hand of the physician while 
the pulse was examined. He put seven of his wives 
to death with his own hand, after his return from a 


pilgrimage to Mecca, during which the janizaries 
had obtained admittance to the harem. From all 
the information we could obtain, he treated the 
tenants of his harem like the children of his family. 
When he retired, he carried with him a number of 
watch-papers he had amused himself by cutting with 
scissors during the day, as toys to distribute among 

The same traveller says : " In the evening we took 
some coffee in the house of the imperial consul, and 
were introduced to the ladies of his family. We 
were amused by seeing his wife, a very beautiful 
woman, sitting cross-legged by us on the divan, and 
smoking tobacco with a pipe six feet long. Her 
eyelashes, as well as those of the other women, 
were tinged with the black powder made of sulphu- 
ret of antimony. Although this has by no means a 
cleanly appearance, it is considered as essential to 
the decoration of a woman of rank in Syria as her 
ear-rings, or the golden cinctures of her ankles. 
Dark streaks were likewise pencilled from the cor- 
ners of her eyes along the temples. This reminded 
us of certain passages of Scripture wherein mention 
is made of i putting the eyes in painting.' English 
translators, unable to reconcile this with their ideas 
of a lady's toilet, have rendered it 'painting the 
face: » 

The Arabs, though Mohammedans, seldom have 
more than one wife. Divorces rarely take place, 
unless for misconduct, or for not being the mother 


of children. If the Arabian women are fortunate 
enough to have several sons, they are almost idolized 
by their husbands. The little girls are fair, but 
they are almost universally exposed to hardships, 
which soon spoil the complexion. When young 
they are very lively and agreeable, and sing almost 
perpetually. In cities the marriage ceremonies are 
similar to the Turkish, The processions are gay 
according to the wealth of the parties, and blessings 
are invoked on the bride as she passes. 

The Bedouins live in tents, divided into three 
apartments, one for the men, one for the women, and 
one for the cattle. Though often ragged and half 
clothed, the Bedouin women generally manage to 
have jewels of some kind or other, for the neck, ears, 
nose, and arms. Those who cannot afford gold or 
silver, wear a nose ring of iron, sometimes two or 
three inches in diameter. The wives of sheiks, and 
other men of rank, generally wear rows of sequins 
across their foreheads, and fastened in bunches to 
the ends of their long braided hair. Rings in the 
nose, and very large clumsy glass bracelets about 
the wrist, are common. Their maimer of churning* 
butter is curious. They put the milk into a goat- 
skin with the hair all on. This is suspended by 
strong cords to the branch of a tree, and a woman 
shakes it with all her might, until butter is produced. 
These skins are seldom washed, and the butter, of 
course, is none of the sweetest. 

The Bedouins consider their wives as slaves, and 
exercise arbitrary power in punishing them for any 


fault. One of them is said to have beat his wife ttf 
death merely because she had lent his knife without 
permission, though she begged pardon and offered in 
the humblest manner to go and bring it for him. 
Being called before a council of the chief men of the 
tribe, he acknowledged the offence ; saying he had 
told the deceased never to meddle with any thing of 
his, and he was determined to have a wife who 
would obey him better. The chief reproved him for 
not first making a complaint to him ; adding that if 
his wife should, after such a step, be guilty of diso- 
bedience, he had a right to kill her if he pleased. 
The murderer was ordered to pay four sheep, as a 
penalty for not making application to the sheik or 
chief; and soon after he married another woman. 

They are married by a priest, who joins their 
hands, and reads certain verses from the Koran. 
The bride is blindfolded by the priest, and the bride- 
groom leads her into his tent, on the top of which a 
white flag is displayed ; he seats her on a mat, say- 
ing, " You are at home." He then returns to the 
assembled company and joins with them in feasting, 
singing, shouting, firing guns, and performing rival 
feats on horseback, until after midnight. The bride 
remains blindfolded during an entire week, her hus- 
band merely removing the bandage from her eyes 
for a moment, the first time he enters the tent, that 
she may be assured of his identity. Some female 
friend cooks the food, and performs other domestic 
duties for her, until she is allowed to see the light of 
day. The Arabs have many superstitious obser- 


Vances respecting marriage. On such occasions 
they apply to old women skilful in sorcery, who are 
supposed to have the art of tying and untying the 
knots of fate. In cities, the Arabian women cover 
their faces with a cloth, with two holes worked for 
the eyes, which are almost always bright and beau- 
tiful. Their complexion is lemon-colored. They 
stain their fingers and toes a yellowish red, and 
blacken the joints of the latter. The eyebrows are 
stained black, and the lips blue ; and a small flower 
or spot is often painted or stained on each cheek* 
the forehead, and the chin. 

The following is a picture of an Arab beauty : — 
" Her eyes are black, large, and soft, like the ante- 
lope ; her look is melancholy and impassioned ; her 
eyebrows are curved like two arches of ebony ; her 
figure is straight and supple as a lance ; her step is 
like a young colt ; her eyelids are blackened with 
kahol, her lips painted blue, her nails stained a 
gold color with henneh, and her words are sweet as 

The Arab women are said to be generally graceful 
in their motions, and in the adjustment of their 
drapery. On entering an apartment, they carelessly 
fling off their slippers, and show a naked foot peeping 
from beneath the loose ample drawers, which fall 
below the ankle. Mr. Madox, who visited the grand 
sheik, says : " His daughters sat on a sofa with him ; 
not after the Turkish fashion, but with feet to the 
ground. They were rather pretty, gaily dressed? 
with coins suspended on gold chains by the sides of 


their faces. One of them, seeing I had some diffi- 
culty in detaching a piece of meat from the bone, 
offered me another piece with her stained and jewel- 
led fingers. After dinner, when they washed their 
hands, they made a great lather with the soap offered 
by the attendants, which they put in their mouths, 
and cleansed their teeth with their fingers. After 
this they smoked." 

When the wives of Arab chiefs accompany their 
husbands in devout pilgrimages to Mecca, they 
are carried in a litter borne by two camels. Fifteen 
miles from Mecca is a small hill, much resorted to 
by the devout, called Djebel Arafat, or the Mountain 
of Gratitude. On this spot, according to Mohamme- 
dan belief, Adam and Eve met, were reconciled, built 
a house, and lived together, after a separation of for- 
ty, or, as some say, five hundred, years. The women 
of Mecca are said to be free in their manners, even to 
boldness. This may be partly owing to the constant 
sight of strangers, who visit the city as pilgrims, and 
partly to the dullness and indifference of the men, 
induced by their abject poverty and ignorance. 

But the Arabs are in general extremely jealous of 
the honor of their women. They would immediately 
stab a wife or daughter, who was supposed to have 
disgraced herself. A single life is considered so dis- 
respectable, that a woman, in order to avoid it, will 
marry a man very much her inferior, or even consent 
to be the second wife of one already married. 

The poor Arabs live in small thatched huts, and 
sleep on straw mats. Those who are richer have 


low houses of stone with terrace roofs ; and here and 
there may be found an extraordinary individual, who 
has sofas, carpets, mirrors, and fountains. Those 
whose circumstances do not admit of their hav- 
ing separate apartments for women, are careful, 
when they invite any one to the house, to enter 
before him, and cry aloud, Tarick ! Tarick ! (Ee- 
tire ! Retire !) At this warning all the females im- 
mediately hide themselves. 

If the wife of a Bedouin is seduced, the laws allow 
him to kill any of the offender's family whom he 
may happen to meet. Sometimes the affair is settled 
by the seducer's father giving the injured husband 
three or four of his daughters to sell, for as high a 
price as he can obtain. 

The Kereks are not so kind to their wives as the 
Bedouins, with whom they often intermarry. A 
woman cannot inherit the merest trifle of her hus- 
band's property. Even during his lifetime he does 
not supply her with necessary clothing ; she is 
obliged to beg of her father, or steal her husband's 
wheat, and sell it clandestinely. No greater insult 
can be offered to a Kerek than to tell him he sleeps 
under the same blanket with his wife ; for they do 
not allow the women to share their apartments. 
When a wife is ill, they send her back to her pa- 
rents, saying they paid for a healthy woman, and 
cannot have the expense of an invalid. Butter is 
used very freely by this tribe, and they consider it 
the height of meanness to sell it. A butter-seller is 
a most contemptuous epithet ; and the daughters of 


such a parsimonious person would have no chance 
to get husbands. 

The Courds, who dwell in the mountains between 
Turkey and Persia, live in tents, and subsist by- 
plunder, like the Bedouin Arabs. Their women are 
of a pale mahogany hue, with very fine features. 
The nose is generally aquiline, the eyes bright and 
mild, and the whole countenance expressive of kind- 
ness and frankness. The Courds have the utmost 
confidence in their wives and daughters. They may 
be seen at the tent-doors and in the fields, without 
veils, and always ready to answer a civil question, 
or pay a stranger the simple duties of hospitality. 
Both as maidens and matrons they are very virtuous 
and modest. These women are active, vigorous, 
and fearless, and they educate their children in the 
same way. " Our boys will be soldiers," say they; 
" and they must learn to bear and dare every thing. 
We show them the way." 

The Courds, like most people of similar habits, 
receive a certain price for the daughters they dispose 
of in marriage. 

The inhabitants of Afghanistan are Mohamme- 
dans ; of course women are considered as property? 
and the higher classes are kept scrupulously con- 
cealed. But they are an active, romantic people, 
and have more gallantry than usually characterizes 
the Moslem religion. The women are industrious 
in household avocations, and the labors of the distaff 


and the loom ; but they are not required to perform 
out-of-door work. Owing to the nature of Mo- 
hammedan customs and institutions, love and court- 
ship are little known in Moslem nations ; but among 
the Afghans a man often plights his faith to a young 
woman, goes off to remote provinces, and makes 
the most laborious exertions to earn money sufficient 
to purchase her of her friends. 

People of all tribes and languages may be found 
about the beautiful regions of Caucasus* They are 
generally handsome, vigorous, active, hospitable? 
cunning, and dishonest. 

The Circassians and Georgians have been most 
celebrated. Among x the Circassians, pride of birth is 
carried to such an extent, that it is said an unequal 
match was never heard of in that country. 

They are very fond of hunting and military ex- 
ploits ; and women, of course, participate in this 
character. They polish and take care of the armor? 
are very proud of their husband's courage, and re- 
proach them severely when defeated. The young 
men show great activity and skill in military exer- 
cises, and the most alert has the privilege of choos- 
ing the most beautiful girl as*his partner at the next 
ball. Their dances are in the elaborate Asiatic style, 
less gay, graceful, and expressive than those of 

When a Circassian prince wishes to marry, he 
pays the father of the princess the value of two 
thousand rubles, in arms, horses, and cattle ; and his 

VOL. I. 4 


father-in-law gives him a number of slaves in re* 
turn. The prince of Circassia demanded from the 
neighboring prince of Mingrelia an hundred slaves 
loaded with tapestry, an hundred cows, an hundred 
oxen, and an hundred horses, as the price of his sister. 
The birth of a child, especially a boy, is celebrated 
with great festivities. A female infant has a wide 
leathern belt sewed around the waist, which con- 
tinues till it bursts, and is then replaced by another. 
The bridegroom cuts this belt with his dagger, and 
on account of its extreme tightness fatal accidents 
sometimes occur. 

The children of princes are not brought up at 
home, but sent soon after their birth to the house of 
some nobleman, who is charged with their guardian- 
ship. The expenses of their education and marriage 
are paid by the noblemen, who receive no remunera- 
tion from the parents. 

A Circassian dwelling is divided into two parts, 
separated from each other by an inclosed court ; one 
allotted to the husband and such guests as he chooses 
to invite, the other to the wife and family. If a 
European were to ask a Circassian concerning the 
health of his wife, he would angrily turn his back 
without condescending to reply. The lower classes, 
as usual, have more freedom than the higher ; they 
often go abroad without veils. 

Girls marry between their twelfth and sixteenth 
year, and are considered quite old at eighteen. 
Their mothers teach them to embroider, and make 
dresses for themselves and their male relations. On 


the wedding day the father of the hride makes her a 
present, but he reserves the greater portion of what 
he intends to give her, until the birth of her first 
child. On this occasion she visits him, receives the 
remainder of her portion, and is clothed for the first 
time in the matron's dress and veil. 

If there be rival lovers, they often decide the 
question by single combat, or engage friends in the 
quarrel, and the victorious party seizes the prize. If 
the bridegroom can prove any thing against the for- 
mer character of his bride, he sends her back to her 
parents, who generally sell her as a slave. An un- 
faithful wife has her hair shaved, her ears clipped, 
and the sleeves of her robe cut off, and in this situa- 
tion is sent home to her father on horseback, to be 
sold as a slave. 

The Circassians have two kinds of divorce ; one 
total, and the other provisional. In the first case both 
parties are immediately at liberty to marry again ; in 
the other, the couple agree to separate for a year, and 
if at the end of that time the husband does not send for 
his wife, her relatives compel him to a solemn di- 
vorce, that she may be able to marry again. After 
the death of the husband, the wife governs the 
family, without dividing the property among the 
children. When she dies, the wife of the eldest son 
usually takes her place ; the children can then de- 
mand a division of the fortune, the oldest receiving 
the largest share. At funerals, women utter loud 
cries of grief, and disfigure themselves with scars< 
They wear black for mourning. 


The Circassians, like the Arabs, are remarkable 
for hospitality. They will incur any dangers to pro- 
tect a person that has eaten of their food. Should 
the enemies of a stranger attempt to seize him in the 
house of a Circassian, the wife of his host would 
give him milk from her own breast, in token of 
adoption ; and from that moment all the tribe would 
feel bound to avenge his wrings, as if he were a 

The Circassian women have been celebrated through- 
out the world for their beauty. Some modern tra- 
vellers have denied their claims to such great cele- 
brity. Dr. Kimmel says, " I have met with none of 
extraordinary beauty ; and officers who have long 
commanded in the Caucasus have informed me that 
Circassian beauties are extremely rare." 

But it must be remembered that women of the 
higher classes are rigorously excluded from the sight 
of a traveller ; and in a country where the feudal 
system prevails to its utmost extent, the handsome 
daughter of a serf would be immediately claimed by 
her noble master, who could sell her for the royal 
harems, or reserve her for himself, as he saw fit. 

Women of rank embroider, weave elegant baskets, 
and other ornamental things. The lower class tend the 
flocks, weave garments for the men, and do a variety 
of household and out-door work. The serfs are the 
only class who continue to live with a wife after she 
grows old. It is an uncommon thing for any man 
or woman, even among the prmces, to know how to 
read or write. 


The condition of the Georgians is very similar to 
that of their neighbors the Circassians. 

The Georgian women are very remarkable for 
beauty ; but are said to be wanton, treacherous, and 
uncleanly. A great trade in female slaves has been 
carried on in Georgia. Fathers sell their children, 
brothers their sisters, and nobles their vassals. Jew- 
ish agents are continually traversing the provinces 
about Caucasus, seeking the fairest flowers for the 
harems of Turkey and Persia. A handsome, red- 
haired girl will sell in Constantinople for six or seven 
thousand piastres. 

The Georgian women are tasteful and elegant in 
their dress, and great pains are taken to perfect them 
in those voluptuous arts of pleasing, which the Ori- 
entals call female accomplishments. 

The men being almost always engaged in war, or 
hunting, there is very little companionship between 
the sexes. 

The Armenians are Christians ; but their customs 
with regard to women are very similar to the Turks, 
excepting that their laws do not permit a plurality 
of wives. They keep their wives and daughters as 
rigorously excluded as the Turks do theirs. A man 
never sees the face of the woman he is to marry, and 
courtship is a thing unknown. 

The mother of a young man generally selects a 
bride for him, and makes all necessary arrangements 
concerning the dowry, bridal presents, &c. The na- 
ture of these presents are regulated by old laws and 
usages, and each article is blessed by a priests 


When the bridegroom goes to bring his bride from 
her father's house to his own, his father-in-law gives 
him a new watch, and the nearest female relations 
hang pieces of gold tinsel on his hat. He is intro- 
duced to the bride, who sits on a low sofa, so com- 
pletely buried in dresses, that not so much as the tip 
of her shoe is visible. A thick white linen veil, 
called the perkem, used only for, bridals, is thrown 
over her head ; over this is another veil composed 
of tinsel, or sheets of gilt paper. Her hair flows 
down, and, joined to a mass of false hair, rests upon 
the sofa. The priest leads her blindfolded to the 
centre of the room, places her hand in that of the 
bridegroom, and pronounces a blessing. All the 
company then form in procession ; a priest goes first 
with a lighted torch, and is followed by the bride- 
groom ; the march is closed by the bride, who, being 
unable to see for herself, is led by female relations. 
When they arrive at the bridegroom's house, the 
bride is smoked with incense, and sprinkled with 
rose-water. She is then led to her apartments, and 
left with the women. The bridegroom proceeds to 
his apartment, where he is shaved and dressed in his 
wedding suit, every article of which is blessed by 
the priest, as he presents it. The couple are then 
led forth to the centre of another apartment, where 
the priest again joins their hands, and knocks their 
foreheads gently together. One of the family waves 
a crucifix over them, they again touch foreheads, and 
continue to lean against each other, while the priest 
chants some passages from the gospel. When he 


has done singing, the priest produces two strings ex- 
actly alike, made of white and rose-colored silk inter- 
woven together. He ties one round the brow of the 
bridegroom, over whom the crucifix is held, and asks, 
with a solemn pause between each question, " If she 
is blind, thou acceptest her ?" " If she is lame, 
thou acceptest her ?" " If she is hump-backed, thou 
acceptest her ?" 

To each question the bridegroom answers, " I ac- 
cept." The other silken string is then tied round 
the brow of the bride, over whom the crucifix is held. 
The priest says, " Thou acceptest." She answers, 
-" I accept." 

The company then shower small pieces of money 
on the couple, the cross is waved, and the priests 
chant. All the men quit the room for a short time, 
while the matrons remove a quantity of the robes 
and veils, under which the bride is well nigh stifled. 
At a given signal, the husband is admitted, and 
allowed to see, for an instant, the countenance of his 

All the company then pass in. The bride is not 
again enveloped with the linen veil, but her face is 
covered with the tinsel and gold paper. The female 
guests kiss her, and put presents in her hand. After 
this, all the male relations, 1p the remotest degree, 
are allowed a glance at the bride's face, and the favor 
of kissing her hand. 

Feasting and amusements then commence, and 
continue for three days. All this time the bride is 
obliged to sit motionless on the sofa ; it would be 


considered the height of indecorum for her even to 
whisper to any one, except the old matron who ac- 
companied her from her father's house, and who is 
generally her nurse. 

Toward the end of the third day, the priest leads 
the bridegroom to the bride, removes the silken 
strings from their brows, and carries away the tinsel 
veil. The bride is now, for the first time, permitted 
to speak. According to the old laws, she was not 
allowed to open her lips in the presence of her 
mother-in-law, or her married sister-in-law, for one 
year ; the practice is now less rigid, but the most 
profound respect, and implicit obedience, is still ex- 
acted from the bride toward the relatives of her hus- 

The marriages even of the poorest Armenians take 
place with all this ceremony and parade. Cooking 
utensils, robes, veils, &c, are kept stored in the 
churches, for the use of those who cannot afford to 
buy them for the occasion. 

The dress of the Armenian ladies is remarkably 
heavy and loaded, and their ornaments large and 
massive. They have black eyes, ruddy complex- 
ions, and in general coarse features, with little ex- 
pression. When they go out, the face is muffled up 
with bandages so as to show only the eyes, and 
sometimes a part of the nose. In the house, as well 
as abroad, and by night as well as by day, they wear 
a nose band, the pressure of which makes that fea- 
ture universally broad and flat. They allow none of 
their hair to be seen, except a long braid that falls 


down the back nearly to the ground. The custom 
of muffling themselves up, so that all look nearly 
alike, led Tournefort to say, facetiously, " An Arme- 
nian returning from a journey is not sure to find the 
same wife ; he cannot tell whether she may not be 
dead, and whether some other woman may not have 
stepped into the place of the deceased." 

The Armenian salutation, on entering a room, is to 
place the right hand rapidly to the breast, mouth, 
and forehead. The ladies throw off their slippers 
before they sit down. The manner of lowering them- 
selves upon the divan, so as to assume the oriental 
posture, is said to be altogether inimitable by a Eu- 
ropean. For the sake of change in position, they 
sometimes kneel. 

Xenophon, in his Cyropaedia, relates a beautiful 
anecdote of an Armenian wife in very ancient times. 
The princes of the country having evaded the pay- 
ment of their customary tribute to Persia, Cyrus 
made war upon them, and took the royal family 
prisoners. Tigranes, the king's son, had been re- 
cently married to a woman for whom he had very 
great love. The Persian monarch asked the prince 
what price he would give to regain her. Tigranes 
with great fervor replied, " Oh, Cyrus, I would save 
her from servitude at the expense of my life !" The 
noble conqueror replied, " Take your own to your- 
self; and do you, Armenian king, take your wife and 
children, without payment, that they may know they 
come free to you." 

When the Armenians returned home, all were talk- 


T U R K I S H W M E N 

ing of the magnanimity, mildness, and beauty of 
Cyrus. Tigranes said to his wife, " And do you, 
Armenian dame, think Cyrus so very handsome ?" 
" Truly," said she, " I did not look at him." " At 
whom then did you look ?" inquired her husband. 
" At the man who said he would ransom me at the 
expense of his own life," she replied. 

The Turks as Mohammedans may have four wives, 
and as many mistresses as they can maintain ; but 
the common class of people rarely have more than one 

The Grand Sultan cannot marry one of his own 
subjects, and Christian princesses would not in gene- 
ral be willing to form one of his numerous harem, 
even if such an alliance were not regarded as an 
abomination by the Moslems. His household is 
therefore composed of beautiful female slaves, usually 
presented by the first grandees of the empire, as one 
of the surest methods of obtaining royal favor. The 
heir apparent is consequently always the " son of a 
slave ;" a contemptuous epithet often applied to him 
in the hour of adversity. 

Orkhan, the second emperor of the Turks, is the 
only one on whom a Christian princess was bestow- 
ed. Theodora, of the Greek empire, daughter of 
Cantacuzene and Irene, was given to the powerful 
Turk by her ambitious father, though he was well 
aware that he previously had many wives and favo- 
rites. No marriage ceremonies were performed ; but 
the troops were assembled round a throne, on which 


Theodora was seated concealed by silken curtains. 
At a signal from the emperor, the screens were with- 
drawn, and the bride discovered in the midst of 
kneeling eunuchs and blazing torches ; while the joy- 
ful sound of trumpets and other instruments of music 
welcomed her appearance. Her father had stipulated 
that she should be allowed to preserve her religion 
in the midst of the harem, and he wrote much in 
praise of her charity and devotion in this difficult 

Achmet I. is said to have had three thousand wo- 
men in his harem, and the grandees of the empire 
generally have some hundreds. The rigid seclusion 
of Mohammedan women is said to have originated in 
the conduct of Ayesha, called Best Beloved Wife of 
the Prophet, and Mother of the Faithful. She went 
out into the desert to look for a pearl necklace she 
had lost, and on her return was accused of listening 
to the smooth words of an officer she met. Mohammed 
did not withdraw his affection, and publicly pro- 
tested her innocence ; but keenly alive to the dis- 
graceful report, he expressly forbade any Mussulman 
to speak to his wives, or to remain in his house afte* 
dinner, or to enter it in his absence. 

Harem is an Arabic word signifying sanctuary. 
These retreats are so carefully guarded, that little is 
known of their interior arrangements. Physicians, 
and the wives of European ambassadors, have some- 
times gained access to seraglios, which they describe 
as follows : Favorites of the highest rank are called 
kkatouns, of which there are seven. She who first 


presents the Sultan with a son becomes the sultana 
hasseki, and takes precedence of the others. Next in 
rank to the khatouns are the odahlycs, whose number 
is unlimited. Each of the khatouns has a seventh 
part of the odahlycs, and a certain number of eunuchs 
and slaves as her own peculiar attendants; and 
each has a separate court, garden, and bath, belong- 
ing to the pavilion in which she resides. These pa- 
vilions are adorned with marble, paintings in ara- 
besque, gilding, mirrors, &c. The odahlycs, gene- 
rally to the amount of some hundreds, sleep on sofas 
in a long high gallery, divided by a double row of 
chests of drawers, where they keep their clothing. 
The staircases to this gallery are secured by massive 
trap-doors, fastened with bars of iron. The inner 
courts of the harem are guarded by black eunuchs, 
with muskets always in their hands, and the outer 
by white eunuchs. Innumerable subordinate officers 
are appointed to settle disputes, and keep order within 
and around the harem. When any of the Sultan's 
women accompany him into the gardens, officers are 
in readiness to warn the gardeners and all other men 
to retire ; and should any one be slow to obey, he 
would be killed on the spot. When the king's wo- 
men are removed from one seraglio to another, they 
are accompanied by officers with staves to keep off 
the people, and to prevent the ladies from showing 
themselves by drawing the curtains of their litters. 
When ill the women are always attended by their 
own sex. Physicians are admitted into the harem 
only under the strictest guard, and on extraordinary 


Occasions ; even then they are not permitted to see 
their patients, except through gauze. Notwithstand- 
ing all these precautions, intrigues are sometimes 
successfully carried on. If discovered, the woman is 
tied up in a sack and drowned ; but the Koran or- 
dains that he who accuses a woman without being 
able to prove her guilt, shall receive the bastinado. 

The mother of the reigning Sultan is called sul* 
tana valydeh ; a title which she assumes at his ac- 
cession, and loses whenever he dies, or is deposed. 
Her sons treat her with the most unbounded respect, 
and give her almost supreme control in the harem. 
Her political influence is likewise by no means in- 
considerable. The grand seignior often communicates 
to her the secrets of state ; covered with a veil, she 
holds conferences with the grand vizier and the mufti ; 
and in the absence of her son, she issues orders in 
his name. In the time of Achmet III., the sultana 
valydeh warmly espoused the cause of Charles XII. 
of Sweden, and made great exertions to arm Turkey 
against Russia, in his behalf. She even wrote let- 
ters to the king of Sweden, and to count Ponia- 
towski, though such a step was in open defiance of 
the laws of the harem. The revenues of certain 
provinces belong to the sultana mother, and in 
times of emergency she often lends large sums to his 

The sultana valydeh and the sultana hasseki 
almost always dislike each other, because each is 
jealous of the other's influence over the reigning 
monarch. The hasseki finds it prudent to dissemble 


her hatred, for fear of giving offence to the Sultan j 
and the valydeh on her part, while she refrains from 
openly wounding the affections of her imperious 
son, generally contrives all manner of secret and in- 
direct means to injure his favorite. It sometimes 
happens, however, that the hasseki is so perfectly 
passive and submissive as to be a favorite both with 
mother and son. 

If the heir apparent dies, the hasseki loses her 
rank, and the next khatoun who has a son takes her 

This gives rise to the strongest feelings of rival- 
ship, envy, and hatred. No pains are spared by the 
khatouns to destroy the offspring, injure the health, 
or vex the feelings of those odahlycs in whom they 
are fearful of finding rivals. 

The sultana Guneche (a name which signifies the 
sun) had acquired great influence over Mohammed IV. 
by her beauty, excellent understanding, and perpetual 
flow of spirits. In the height of her power, the 
sultana mother was malicious enough to introduce 
to her son a lovely Circassian slave, named Gulbeyaz, 
or the white rose. The effect produced upon the 
mind of the voluptuous monarch was precisely what 
she wished : Guneche soon received intimation that 
apartments and a sultana's train were in preparation 
for the new favorite. She stole to the chamber of 
her rival, and after loading her with the bitterest in- 
vectives, beat her so cruelly that the whole harem 
was in an uproar. The Sultan provided Gulbeyaz 
with another residence six leagues distant, and 

TtJKKISH WO ME ft. &f 

threatened to treat Guneche as a slave. She, how- 
ever, made her peace with him, by attributing her rash 
conduct to excess of love, and expressing her determi- 
nation in future to sacrifice her own feelings to the 
gratification of her lion, as the sultanas fondly call 
his Highness. 

But afterward her jealousy showed itself in a still 
worse form. The Sultan had received from the 
grand vizier a most beautiful slave, named Khadyjeh. 
With a view to her safety, he conveyed her to a se- 
raglio on the canal of the Black sea. For a time, 
Guneche appeared to have no suspicion of the fre- 
quent visits he paid her. But one day when the 
grand seignior had gone a hunting some distance 
from Constantinople, she ordered caiques to be se- 
cretly prepared for an excursion on the canal. On 
her arrival at the seraglio where Khadyjeh was con- 
fined, she affected to wish to enter the pavilion to 
rest. The new favorite was engaged in the innocent 
amusement of angling, in a closet that overhung the 
sea. Her vindictive rival came softly behind her, and 
suddenly pushed her into the waves, from which she 
rose no more. 

The heir to the throne remains under the tuition 
of his mother until he is eight or nine years old, and 
custom, as well as the rules of the Koran, require 
from him the most implicit and reverential obedience. 
The day on which this important little personage is 
delivered over to male instructers is celebrated with 
great pomp. A recent traveller thus describes the 
ceremonies that took place when the oldest son of 


Sultan Mahmoud was nearly nine years old: " The 
extensive plain of Ibraham Aga, on the Asiatic shore, 
was covered with tents for the accommodation of 
troops of children, of whom six thousand were pre- 
sert. The Sultan was seated on a throne in a 
splendid pavilion, supported by gilded columns, hung 
with gold and silver tissue. The young prince was 
introduced to all the chief officers of the empire, and 
after respectfully embracing his father's feet he took 
his seat on a cushion near him. A chapter from the 
Koran was read, and a prayer pronounced by the 
grand mufti. At every pause all the children 
throughout the camp cried Amen, and it was echoed 
by the neighboring hills. Food is distributed and 
criminals pardoned in honor of the occasion. The 
festival lasts three days ; and during all this time, 
men, women, and children remain in the field. The 
troops, the long line of tents, the noisy children, and 
women in all manner of gay costumes, riding in 
their painted and carved arabahs, drawn by oxen, 
combine to make the scene very cheerful and exhila- 

In many instances the Sultans, when they as- 
cended the throne, have caused all their brothers to 
be put to death, to prevent any disputes about suc- 
cession. Amurat III. caused his five brothers to be 
killed in the presence of their own mothers, one of 
whom, unable to endure the sight, stabbed herself in 
despair. He likewise put to death two of his 
father's slaves, who were likely to become mothers* 
Mohammed III., son and successor of Amurat, caused 


nineteen brothers to be strangled, and ten of his 
father's odahlycs to be thrown into the sea, for the 
same reason. 

The khatouns occasionally make each other a 
ceremonious visit, probably from motives of curiosity ; 
but their meals, baths, and amusements, are distinct 
from each other. They change their dresses many 
times a day, smoke, chew gum mastic, and loll on 
sofas, while female slaves dance around them, and 
perform pantomimes, which almost always represent 
love scenes. They have likewise magic lanterns and 
puppet shows, the subjects of which are said to be 
any thing but modest. One of their favorite occupa- 
tions is making beads of rose leaves. The petals 
of the rose are carefully picked, and pounded into a 
smooth paste in an iron vessel. The iron, acting 
upon a certain acid in the rose, turns the paste quite 
black. It is made into little balls, which are perfo- 
rated for stringing, and hung up in the shade to dry. 
When hard they are rubbed between the hands with 
a little attar of rose, till they become perfectly 
smooth. They never lose their fragrance. The 
Turkish ladies spend hours in passing these beads 
backward and forward on a string, inhaling the deli- 
cate perfume. They practise dancing, music, and 
•embroidery, in the cool kiosks or pavilions, situated 
in the midst of the gardens. Here Frank and Greek 
women are sometimes admitted to exhibit goods and 
jewelry for sale, and Jewesses skilled in fortune-tel- 
ling, amulets, and love-potions, are always welcome. 

A visit from any lady of distinction, either from & 
VOL. I. 5 


foreign nation or some distant part of the empire, is 
an extraordinary occasion, and conducted with much 
ceremony. If the visiter be a European, they mani- 
fest the greatest curiosity concerning those Christian 
countries where they have been told each man has 
but one wife. At parting, the guests are usually 
presented with embroidered handkerchiefs, and sprin- 
kled by the attendants with perfumed waters. 

The Sultan sometimes indulges his women in 
what is called the Feast of Lamps, which consists in 
a general illumination of the gardens of the seraglio 
with colored lamps and reflecting mirrors. Booths 
are erected for the festival, furnished with a variety 
of goods, and with vases full of beautiful flowers. 
The*%isters, nieces, and female cousins of the grand 
seignior are invited. The women of the harem, in 
appropriate dresses, tend the bazar, while the Sul- 
tan and his guests walk about purchasing jewelry 
and rich stuffs, which they present to each other. 
Dancing, music, and sports of various kinds continue 
till late at night. 

The women of the harem try to obtain as many 
jewels as they can, because in case of their master's 
death these are not taken away from them. In the 
midst of slaughter, the most ruffianly soldier con- 
siders the walls of the harem as sacred ; and when 
executioners are sent to strangle a state criminal and 
seize his effects, they do not enter his seraglio, or 
touch any property that belongs to his women. 

The Sultan's daughters and sisters enjoy more 
liberty than any of his favorites. Not being heirs. 


to the throne, they are not exposed to the perils that 
await his brothers and sons. While these girls are 
yet in their cradles, a husband is provided for them, 
generally among wealthy pachas ; and as soon as he 
dies, they are provided with another ; who (with a 
view to securing his wealth for the royal coffers) is 
very likely to be accused of some crime and soon 
strangled. Thus a sister of Amurat IV. had four 
husbands in less than one year. 

If the sultana be ever so old or ugly, a man dare 
not refuse the honor of her alliance, if he values his 
head. During the reign of Abdul Hamyd, an old 
sultana fell in love with a handsome and wealthy 
young man, whom she saw pass her windows during 
a public ceremony. The young man was thunder- 
struck when the Sultan made known the honor 
that awaited him ; for he had an excellent wife, whom 
he most tenderly loved. But there was no escape 
for him. Had he attempted to fly, his capture and 
death would have been almost certain. He was 
compelled to dismiss his wife, who survived their 
separation but a few days. 

The individual thus chosen is summoned to the 
presence of the Sultan, where he waits till the pre- 
siding khatoun comes and makes a signal that he is 
to follow her into the harem. At the threshold, 
the eunuchs take off his slippers, and make him wait 
some minutes, in token of the obedience he owes his 
royal consort. When he enters, he makes three 
obeisances, kneels, bows his face to the ground, and 
repeats a short prayer. The khatoun then conducts 


him to his bride, who sits on a sofa, entirely covered 
with a veil of red taffeta. She treats him with the 
utmost haughtiness, which he tries to soften by 
magnificent presents. The slaves bring a tray con- 
taining sugar-candy and a pair of pigeons. The 
bridegroom offers some of the pigeon to the sultana, 
and she offers him candy. He expresses his felicity 
in terms the most reverential. The sound of various 
instruments then gives him notice to retire from the 
apartments of the women, and feasting and amuse- 
ment is kept up till late in the night. If the bride 
be past the years of infancy, she is conducted to her 
husband's residence with great pomp. 

Some writers have affirmed that a part of these 
marriage ceremonies consists in the Sultan's saying 
to his sister, or daughter, " I give this man to be thy 
slave. If he offends, cut off his head;" and that the 
bride actually wears a sabre in token of her authority. 
Whether this be true or not, there cannot easily be 
any other bond than fear, in an alliance where one 
word of complaint from the wife would bring an exe- 
cutioner to strangle the husband. 

The female relations of the Sultan are never al- 
lowed to quit Constantinople, lest their sons should 
escape the power of the despot, and occasion distur- 
bances in the succession to the throne. When the 
Sultan dies, his women are shut up in what is called 
the old seraglio. If his successor be his son or bro- 
ther, it is sacrilegious for him ever to look upon 
them ; if otherwise, the love of novelty sometimes 
leads him among them to select new favorites. 


But the seraglios of the Sultan and his grandees 
do not furnish a true picture of the character and 
condition of the Turkish women ; any more than 
the royal marriages and etiquette of European courts 
are indicative of the manners of the people. Women 
of the middling classes in Turkey appear to enjoy 
a very considerable degree of freedom and considera- 
tion. It is even said that hen-pecked husbands are 
as numerous there as elsewhere. Their houses are 
indeed divided into separate apartments, one portion 
devoted to the men and the other to the women. 
Sometimes these apartments communicate only by 
one door, of which the husband holds the key ; and 
the food of the women is conveyed to them by means 
of a revolving cupboard, similar to those by which 
the poor are supplied with food at the gate of con- 
vents. But, generally speaking, the Turkish women 
go in and out at their pleasure. The streets and 
bazars of Constantinople are full of them. They 
seldom address a stranger, or reply if spoken to ; but 
if any thing peculiarly attracts their curiosity, they 
ask questions with much simplicity. Their favorite 
recreation is an excursion on the Bosphorus, the 
arrangements for which are made with very little 
ceremony. A lady sends her servants to invite her fe- 
male friends, orders the provisions to be carried with 
them, gives directions for her husband's dinner, steps 
into her caique,^ calls for her friend, proceeds up 
the Golden Horn, selects some pleasant scene where 

* A light boat. 


the children can frolic under the shade of lofty trees* 
and there they remain working, talking, singing, and 
playing on the thambourah,^ till the declining sun 
gives them warning to return. Sometimes the hus- 
bands join in these excursions, and sit in a group 
apart from the ladies, smoking, and sipping sherbet 
and coffee, while female slaves amuse them with 
dancing and singing. Trustworthy attendants al- 
ways accompany the ladies on these occasions, to 
protect them from intrusion. It would be considered 
extremely indecorous for a stranger to approach the 

These excursions on the canals are said to be 
sometimes the scenes of love-intrigues, carried on by 
means of signals from those in the neighboring 
houses to those in the boats. The police officers 
are on the watch for such misdemeanors ; how often 
their vigilance is eluded, is best known to those who 
reside near the Bosphorus. The natural love of 
overcoming obstacles is a strong incentive to in- 
trigue, and the custom of wearing veils favors con- 
cealment. In case of detection, the prompt punish- 
ment of despotic countries follows without much 
ceremony. All the public know, is that some woman 
is seen hanging lifeless from her own window, with 
her lover, or supposed lover, by her side ; or that her 
body, inclosed in a sack, is found floating on the 

In former times the Turks considered it so impro- 

* An instrument with eight strings. 


per to display a female face, that they used to fire at 
English merchant-ships the figure-head of which 
represented a woman ; but the custom of veiling the 
face, by a muslin tied over the mouth and chin, is 
gradually going out of fashion, especially with the 

The Turkish ladies spend some of their most 
agreeable hours in the public baths appropriated to 
their use. These baths are lighted by bell glasses 
at the top, and consist of apartments of different 
degrees of temperature. The last room is so hot 
that high wooden clogs must be worn to protect the 
feet from the pavement, and a sudden perspiration 
trickles from the pores at the moment of entrance. 
Yet the women go very frequently, and sometimes 
remain in this atmosphere five or six hours, while 
their attendants rub them with a kind of brush, and 
pull the joints till they crack- This operation, at 
first a little painful, is said to be followed by a sen- 
sation peculiarly agreeable. Having made plentiful 
use of perfumed soap and pomatum, braided their 
tresses, and pared their nails, the bathers pass into 
the next room, the temperature of which is lower. 
Here clean beds are prepared for delicious repose 
after the relaxation of the bath. Coffee and cordials 
are likewise furnished in this room, and sometimes a 
whole party of women dine there, and stay till even- 
ing, listening to stories, and discussing the important 
affairs of love and dress. 

Turkish women generally have a sallow complex- 
ion with dark eyes. A face like a full moon, and a 


person decidedly fleshy, are among their requisites 
for beauty. The grandees are said to place a pecu- 
liar value upon fair-haired girls, prdbably on account 
of their rarity. 

The wedding ceremonies are simple. All the rela- 
tions send presents of furniture, clothes, or jewels, 
which are the property of the wife in case of her 
husband's death. Sometimes, when the marriage 
contracts are signed, a solemn promise is exacted 
from the man that he will never marry again during 
the lifetime of his wife. The bridal ceremony is per- 
formed by an iman or priest, who joins the hands 
of the parties, and recites certain prayers from the 
Koran. It sometimes takes place at the bridegroom's 
house, but more generally at a mosque. The day 
before the wedding the bride goes to the bath, w r here 
her female relations and friends take off her dress, 
sing a bridal song, and offer their various gifts. The 
parties are escorted to the mosque in state, accom- 
panied by friends and relations in arabahs,^ drawn 
by oxen decorated with ribbons and garlands. The 
arabah in which the bride is conveyed is closed, but 
the others are open. The bridal veil is bright red 
bordered with yellow. The eyebrows of the bride 
are united in one broad black streak, by means of 
antimony and gall nuts ; and her fingers are stained 
with hennah. When the new part of the nail forms 
a contrast with the stained part, it is considered 
peculiarly beautiful. Sometimes a childish love of 

* Light wagons. 


ornament is carried so far, that gilt paper cut in the 
form of crescents, and various fantastic shapes, are 
stuck upon the face. Before the arabah which con- 
tains the bride are borne several trees surrounded 
with hoops, from which hang festoons of gold thread 
or tinsel, which wave in the breeze, and glitter when 
the sun glances on them. The procession consists 
of dancers, musicians, mountebanks, horses loaded 
with the furniture and apparel of the bride, and 
the relatives and friends on horseback, or in car- 

When the bridegroom leaves the mosque, his 
friends strike him smartly on the shoulders for good 
luck. Girls are usually betrothed at the age of three 
or four years, and receive the nuptial benediction at 
twelve or fourteen. The custom of not allowing the 
bridegroom to see the bride until after the ceremony 
is contrary to the precepts of the Koran ; for Mo- 
hammed says to one of his disciples, who was about 
to take a wife, " First see her, that you may judge 
how you should like to live with her." 

The wedding festivities last four days ; the men 
feasting and frolicking in one set of apartments, the 
women in another. They usually begin on Monday, 
to avoid interfering with the Mohammedan Sabbath, 
which comes on Friday. A single life is very disre- 
putable, and widows almost invariably marry again, 
unless they are very old. A Turkish woman is re- 
spected by her family and the world in proportion to 
the number of her children. In general they have 
very numerous claims to this kind of distinction. 


The Koran declares that a woman who dies unrnar- 
ried is in a state of reprobation. 

The common idea that Mohammedans believe 
women have no souls, is not founded upon any thing 
contained in the Koran. Mohammed expressly 
says : " Whoso worketh good, male or female, shall 
enter paradise;" and the pilgrimage to Mecca, for 
the salvation of their souls, is enjoined upon women 
as well as men, with the proviso that they must be ac- 
companied by their husbands, or near male relations^ 

The Mohammedan law forbids pigs, dogs, women r 
and other impure animals to enter a mosque ; and 
the hour of prayers must not be proclaimed by a 
female, a madman, a drunkard, or a decrepit person 
The first prohibition was no doubt intended to pre- 
vent the frequent meetings between the sexes which 
would be likely to take place during religious ser- 
vices. The last regulation implies no peculiar con- 
tempt for women ; the same classes would be ex- 
cluded from the priesthood in Christian countries. 

The Turkish proverb, that " A woman causes the 
ruin or prosperity of a house," implies that female 
influence is in some degree acknowledged and ap- 

Jests at the expense of women prevail in Turkey., 
as they do all over the world. Nass-red-dyn, the 
Turkish iEsop, wishing to propitiate the conquer- 
ing Tamerlane, proposed to carry him some fruit. 
"'Hold," said he, " two heads are better than one ; I 
will ask my wife whether I had better carry quinces 
or figs." His wife replied, " Quinces will please him 


best, because they are larger and finer," " However 
useful the advice of Others may be," rejoined Nass- 
red-dyn, " it is never well to follow that of a woman ; 
I am determined to take figs." 

When he arrived in the camp, Tamerlane amused 
himself with throwing the figs at his bald head. At 
every blow Nass-red-dyn exclaimed, " God be prais- 
ed !" Tamerlane inquired what he meant. " I am 
thanking God that I did not follow my wife's ad- 
vice," replied Nass-red-dyn ; " for if I had brought 
quinces instead of figs, I should certainly have a 
broken head." 

Women do not attend funerals in Turkey, the 
ceremonies of which are very simple. At the death 
of a husband they put on a particular kind of head- 
dress, and wear no ornaments for twelve months. 
At the grave the iman repeats a prayer, and calls 
the deceased three times by his name, and by that 
of his mother, never by his father's. If the mother's 
name be unknown, they call him "son of Mary," 
the blessed virgin ; if the deceased be a woman un- 
der similar circumstances, they call her " daughter 
of Eve." A column with a sculptured turban on the 
top designates the grave of a man ; a kind of vase, 
or marble bowl, is placed on the top of columns 
erected for women. After a rain, the birds come to 
these vases to drink. In Syria, Armenia, and Tur- 
key, the color of mourning is celestial blue. 

In 1755, Othman III. made very severe ordinances 
with regard to women. He forbade their going 
abroad on Friday ; would not allow them to do their 


own shopping ; (that task being transferred to theiV 
husbands and male relations ;) ordered them to wear 
coarse dull-colored cloth instead of fine Cashmeres ; 
and made an express edict against their high head- 
dresses. The women, to avoid this last ordinance, 
contrived a species of machinery by which they 
could suddenly diminish their caps, and raise them 
again, when the police officers were out of sight. 

These regulations were but temporary. The 
wives and daughters of the wealthy Turks dress 
with extreme magnificence. Eich colored damask 
brocades embroidered with silver and gold, and 
looped up with buttons of diamond or pearl, are 
much worn. Though the national costume remains 
the same, fashion plays a thousand freaks with the 
details of dress. 

The Turks do not consider it polite to make in- 
quiries concerning each other's wives. Among the 
class of vicious women in cities the number of Mo- 
hammedans is said to be very small, because the 
laws restraining them are peculiarly severe. If it be 
discovered that a Mohammedan woman has a Chris- 
tian lover, he is compelled to marry her, and renounce 
his religion. 

Perhaps there is no country where slavery exist? 
in so mild a form as in Turkey. The children of 
slaves are brought up in the same way as the legiti- 
mate children, and enjoy the same privileges and 
rights. Female slaves are free by law at the end of 
six years, and allowed to form the most advantageous 
marriages they can. 


Instances are numerous of slaves rising to the 
highest dignities of the empire. The black eunuchs 
of the seraglio often acquire immense wealth and 

It is a singular fact, that the Mohammedan nations 
treat slaves better than the Christian; and that, 
among Christians, the Catholic nations treat them 
better than the Protestant. 

Both European and Asiatic Turkey have been 
described under the head of Asia, because their 
manners and customs are so decidedly and entirely 

Of the Asiatic Greeks nothing is here said, because 
their character and condition is essentially the same 
as that of the Greeks in Europe. 

Numerous Frank and Armenian merchants reside 
in Smyrna, the manners and costumes of which are 
a curious combination of various nations. It seems 
very odd to travellers to meet ladies with English or 
French names, wearing the Turkish or Greek cos- 
tume, and speaking the Greek language. The Car- 
nival is celebrated at Smyrna with extraordinary 
splendor. On this occasion the ladies appear in 
their richest attire, and there is a continual succes- 
sion of waltzing parties, concerts, and theatricals. 

The wealthy Frank merchants residing in Turkey 
are extremely cautious in arranging the marriage 
contracts of their daughters. The bridegroom en- 
gages to secure his wife a certain portion of his 
fortune, in case she survives him, and receives, on his 
part, a written promise from her father of the monev. 


jewels, clothes, &c. constituting the dowry, and of 
the portion he intends to leave her at his death. 

The Persians seem to have been remarkable among 
the ancient nations for a savage jealousy of women, 
which led them to keep the objects of their love 
perpetually imprisoned and guarded. Their severity 
is spoken of as extraordinary, by Plutarch, and other 
authors, who wrote at a period when even the most 
enlightened nations allowed very little freedom to 
their women. Yet the Persians are said to have 
been the first who carried their wives and children 
into the field of battle : u We do it," said they, "that 
the sight of all that is most dear to us, may animate 
us to fight more valiantly in their defence. " 

The Medes and Persians are likewise supposed to 
have been the first who introduced dancing and 
singing women to entertain their guests at a ban- 
quet ; but the fact that Cyrus gave two captive fe- 
male musicians to his uncle Cyaxares, proves that 
music was cultivated at a very early period, by na- 
tions which yielded to the dominion of Persia. 

The character of Cyrus is the brightest page in 
Persian history. At a time when female captives 
taken in war were treated with the utmost indignity, 
and sometimes with savage barbarity, he was distin- 
guished for a degree of respectful gallantry, which 
would have done credit to the most refined prince 
of modern times. 

When told that the exquisitely beautiful wife of 
Abradatas had been assigned to him among othey 


spoils of the Assyrian camp, and that the woman 
wept incessantly for her husband, to whom she was 
fondly attached, Cyrus at once resolved not to see 
her, lest her unrivalled loveliness should make it dif- 
ficult for him to do his duty. In fact, he protected 
her against himself, and against one of his favorite 
officers, who, being appointed to attend upon the 
beautiful Panthea, had become a captive to her 
charms. Nothing could exceed the gratitude of the 
princess, when she found herself and her attendant 
maidens living in the midst of the Persian camp 
with as much safety and seclusion, as if she had been 
in the palace of her husband. Abradatas having 
received information of the magnanimous conduct 
of Cyrus, immediately hastened to engage himself, 
his troops and treasures, in the service of the virtu- 
ous monarch. When he was about to go forth to 
battle with Cyrus, Panthea brought him a golden 
helmet and arm-pieces, with broad bracelets for his 
wrists, which without his knowledge she had caused 
to be made from her own jewels. When he asked, 
with affectionate surprise, if she had sacrificed her 
ornaments for him, she replied that her husband was 
her greatest ornament. She then reminded him 
of their obligations to Cyrus, and told him that 
much as she loved him, she had rather be buried 
with him than live to know he had been deficient in 
courage. Abradatas laid his hand gently on her 
head, and looking upward, exclaimed, " O, great Jove, 
make me worthy of such a wife as Panthea, and such 


a friend as Cyrus !" As the princess put on his 
armor, she turned aside to conceal her tears ; and 
when the door of his chariot was closed, she kissed 
the steps by which he had entered, and followed 
after him. When he perceived this, he again bade 
her farewell, and entreated her to return. Her at- 
tendants placed her on a litter, and threw a tent- 
covering over her, to conceal her from the admiring 
troops. When the dead body of Abradatas was 
brought from the battle, Panthea reproached herself 
that she had urged him to such desperate courage. 
With the stern enthusiasm of ancient times, she 
stabbed herself to the heart, and died on her hus- 
band's breast ; having first given directions that their 
corpses should be wrapped in the same mantle. The 
Persian monarch, with sincere lamentations, ordered 
magnificent funeral rites, and a monument to be 
erected to their memory. 

There is reason to suppose that Cyrus was blessed 
in his own domestic relations ; for we are told that 
he mourned for his wife Cassandana with the sin- 
cerest grief, and commanded public demonstrations 
of sorrow throughout the empire. 

The virtuous decorum of Cyrus was an exception 
to the general character of Persian princes. Men 
of rank, who could indulge their whims without 
control, sometimes married their own sisters and 
daughters. Artaxerxes Memnon, being in love with 
his beautiful daughter Atossa, had some fears that 
the affair would not redound to his credit ; but his 
mother quieted these scruples by saying, " Are you 


not set over the Persians by the go&s, a» tJ» only 
rule of right and wrong ?" 

Another of the Persian king3 called the m?gi to- 
gether to give their opinion on a similar occasion. 
The accommodating priests answered, " We can find 
no law that authorizes a man to marry his own 
daughter; but our laws authorize a king to do 
whatever he pleases," 

Some idea of the excessive voluptuousness of the 
Persian court in ancient times may be derived from 
the account given of Ahasuerus. 

By an old custom the queen had a right to ask 
any favor she thought proper on the king's birth- 
day, and he was bound to grant it. Amestris, the 
wife of Xemes, on one of these occasions, being filled 
with vindictive jealousy, demanded that her sister- 
in-law should he mangled in a most shocking man- 
ner and thrown to the dogs. The innocent victim, 
who had in fact discouraged and resisted the king's 
passion, was destroyed in the most cruel manner. 

The splendor which now characterizes Persian 
princes prevailed in ancient times. The revenues of 
provinces were devoted to particular articles of the 
queen's wardrobe. This was implied by their names ; 
one being called the Queen's Sandals, another the 
Queen's Girdle, &c. The use of false hair was not 
uncommon in Media and Persia. 

The account given of Alexander's marriage with 

the daughter of Darius seems to imply that the 

ancient marriage ceremonies were very simple. A 

great feast was prepared, the bride was seated be- 

vol. i. 6 



side her lover, he took her hand and kissed her in 
presence of the assembled guests, and she became 
his wife. 

The ancient Persians considered matrimony so 
essential, that they believed those who died single 
would infallibly be unhappy in another world ; for 
this reason, when a relation of either sex died un- 
married, they hired some person to be formally mar- 
ried to the deceased as soon as possible. 

It was considered a great misfortune to be child- 
less. " Children," said the prophet Zerdhust, " are a 
bridge that reaches to paradise ; and how shall ye 
pass if he have provided no bridge ? The angel 
shall ask every soul, if he have provided children ; 
if he answer, no, the soul that has contributed so lit- 
tle to society shall himself be left desolate on the 
banks of a river, where he shall see the fresh springs 
and blooming fruits of paradise, but shall never be 
able to reach them." 

A boy was kept in the female apartments, and not 
permitted to see his father, till his fifth year, in or- 
der that his parent might not experience so much 
uneasiness in case he died before that period. 

The slightest rudeness to a Persian woman was 
punished with instant death by her husband or guar- 
dian. He who spoke to one of the numerous in- 
mates of the king's harem, or touched their persons 
even in the most accidental manner, or passed their 
chariots on the road, was killed immediately. The 
modern laws are but little less severe. 

A Persian woman, under the dominion of the kind- 


est master, is treated in much the same manner as a 
favorite animal. To vary her personal graces for 
his pleasure is the sole end and aim of existence. As 
moral or intellectual beings, it would be better for 
them to be among the dead than the living. They 
are allowed to learn a little reading, writing, and em- 
broidery ; but their reading is confined to the Koran, 
and even that they generally read very imperfectly. 
Dancing and music are little practised, except by a 
public class of women, usually hired at festivals and 
entertainments, and of a character notoriously profli- 
gate. These girls are more remarkable for agility 
than grace in their motions. 

The Persian women are kept continually shut up 
in the harem, which they rarely leave from the cra- 
dle to the grave. They are visited only by female 
relations, or female teachers, hired to furnish them 
their scanty apparatus of knowledge. The mother 
instructs her daughter in all the voluptuous coquetry 
by which she herself acquired precarious ascendency 
over her absolute master ; but all that is truly esti- 
mable in female character is neglected, as it ever must 
be where nothing like free and kind companionship 
exists between the sexes. A resident in Persia de- 
clares that the women are ignorant, and inconceiva- 
bly gross in their ideas and conversation. Under 
such a system it could not be otherwise. 

The contempt in which women are held is singu- 
larly exemplified by a Persian law, which requires 
the testimony of four of them in cases where the de- 
claration of two men would be deemed sufficient* 


While talking with a person of rank, it would be 
considered grossly impolite to make the most remote 
allusion to the female part of his family ; even if his 
beloved wife were on her death-bed, it would be 
deemed an almost unpardonable insult to make any 
inquiries concerning her. 

A large black eye, full of amorous softness, is con- 
sidered the chief requisite in Persian beauty. To 
increase this voluptuous languor of expression, they 
make lines around the eyes with powder of antimo- 
ny. They take great pains to make their eyebrows 
meet ; and if this charm be denied, they paint them, 
so as to produce the effect. They not only dye their 
hair and eyebrows, but also stain the face and neck 
with a variety of figures of birds, beasts, and flowers, 
the sun, moon, and stars. A large proportion of the 
noble families are descended from Georgian and Cir- 
cassian mothers, and consequently have fair complex- 

When a Persian father has selected a family with 
which he wishes to have his son connected, he sends 
an elderly female to ascertain the girl's personal en- 
dowments, and the probable consent of her parents 
or guardians. If the report prove favorable, the 
bridegroom sends messengers to explain his merits, 
and make a formal offer of marriage. The heads of 
the family meet to make all arrangements concerning 
presents, ornaments, dowry, &c. ; and the papers are 
sealed and witnessed before magistrates. 

On the morning of the wedding, the bridegroom 
fends a train of mules laden with presents to the 


bride, preceded by music, and followed by numerous' 
servants, bearing costly viands on silver trays, to be 
spread before the inmates of her father's house. The 
day is spent in mirth and feasting. Toward evening, 
the bride veiled, in scarlet or crimson silk, is mount- 
ed on a superbly caparisoned mule, preceded by mu- 
sic, and followed by a long train of relatives and 
friends to the house of her destined husband, who 
rides forth with a similar procession to meet her. 
The female attendants conduct her to the apartments 
prepared for her, and she is from that moment a 
lawful wife. The bridegroom prepares a sumptuous 
feast for his friends and relatives, who generally keep 
up the festivities for three days. 

The jointure settled upon a wife varies according 
to the wealth of the husband* If he is in middling 
circumstances, he merely bestows two dresses, a ring, 
and a mirror ; but he is likewise expected to supply 
all the requisite furniture. 

It is deemed an irretrievable disgrace for a bride 
to be sent back after she has left her father's house* 
Sometimes the bridegroom promises a jointure .be- 
yond his means ; and in these cases, curious scenes 
sometimes take place. He shuts the door against 
the cavalcade, and declares the girl shall not enter 
his dwelling, unless the jointure be reduced. Under 
these circumstances he is generally able to make his 
own terms. 

The harems of grandees are the most magnificent 
portion of their palaces. In the king's seraglio the 
same offices and places exist as at court ; but the 


chief equerry, the captain of the gate, the captain of 
the guards, &c, are all of them women. Women 
likewise read public prayers, and perform the rites 
of the Mohammedan religion within the inclosures of 
the harem. Women practise medicine, and bury the 
dead. A Persian harem is in fact a miniature city, 
with its mosques, cemeteries, bazaars, &c. The in- 
habitants are divided into four classes. The prin- 
cesses of the blood are called begum ; such of the 
king's women as have brought him children are call- 
ed kanoom ; inferior women are called katoon ; and 
those kept for the purpose of waiting upon them are 
termed slaves. Each female has an apartment to 
herself, or lodges with some aged women, and can- 
not go into the other rooms, without express per- 
mission. The harem is watched by three sorts of 
guards, over all of whom is placed a governor, or su- 
perintendent* White eunuchs guard the outside, 
and are never permitted to enter the interior ; black 
eunuchs dwell round the second inner inclosure ; 
and within are stationed elderly women to watch 
day and night by turns. It is indispensably requisite 
that the governor of the seraglio should be very old, 
and exceedingly ugly. The inmates are sometimes 
allowed to walk in the garden, after it has been well 
searched, and all persons ordered to retire. 

When it is necessary to remove the king's women 
from one dwelling to another, public notice is given 
five or six hours beforehand of the road they are to 
pursue. All the inhabitants of the villages through 
which they are to pass must forthwith quit their 


habitation. A horseman rides before the cavalcade, 
calling with a loud voice, Prohibition ! Prohibition ! 
The ladies sometimes ride astride on horseback, 
closely veiled ; but the wealthy generally travel in 
palanquins, or cages of wicker-work, covered with 
cloth, and supported by mules or camels. No excuse 
avails if any male, over seven years of age, is caught 
in any place where he could so much as see the ca* 
mels that carry these women ; even if a traveller 
were to stumble in his hurry to get out of the way, 
the guards would beat him almost to death. 

The first wife generally has a rank above her nu- 
merous rivals, particularly if she be the mother of 
children ; but this depends entirely on the caprice 
of the master. Misdemeanors are punished accord- 
ing to the discretion of the husband. When divor- 
ces take place, the dowry originally given to the wife 
is set aside for her support. The Persians have a 
superstition that the spilling of a woman's blood 
brings ill luck; for this reason, when the inmates of 
the harem are discovered in any love-intrigue they 
are generally muffled up in their long veils, and 
thrown from the top of a high tower. 

Interest compels these women to practise all man- 
ner of coquettish arts. The more capricious and 
presuming they are, the more likely are they to re- 
ceive attention ; if gentle and reserved, they would 
be overlooked in the crowd. The favorite always 
makes despotic use of her transient power. On all 
occasions, she causes the pleasure of her presence to 
be purchased with long delay and impatience ; and 


when she visits her female relatives, she makes it a 
point not to return till her husband has sent many 
times for her. The Persians are generally scrupu- 
lously neat in their persons and apparel. 

The baths are a great place of amusement for 
ladies. Here they pass hours and hours, listening 
to stories of fairies and genii, eating sweetmeats, 
sharing each other's pipes, and painting their per- 
sons. The Jewesses are the oracles of the seraglio. 
From them the young beauties purchase all manner 
of cosmetics, charms, amulets, love*potions, &c. 

The endearing duties of a mother become a source 
of fear and sorrow within the walls of the royal ha- 
rem ; for, in order to prevent quarrels about the suc- 
cession to the throne, it is customary to put large 
numbers of children to death, or to deprive them of 
their eyes. The queen-mother herself superintends 
these executions, to which she becomes hardened by 
custom. The Persian mothers possess the only sha- 
dow of power which women are allowed to have. 
They regulate the education and settlement of their 
children, and it is said a marriage is not concluded, 
even with the father's consent, if they oppose it. 

Sometimes when one of the king's women offends 
him, or his mother, she is married to some menial of 
the palace, which is considered a very disgraceful 
punishment. But fortunate is her lot, who is trans- 
ferred from the royal harem to some favorite grandee. 
She receives the title of a lawful wife, and is treated 
like a princess. Notwithstanding the painful sacri- 
fices and perpetual fear belonging to those who form 


the king's household, parents are extremely anxious 
to obtain the splendid bondage for a daughter ; for 
if she happens to be a favorite, the greatest honors 
and emoluments are heaped on her relations. 

Women of the middling class are more occupied 
than the wives of grandees, and therefore unavoida- 
bly have more freedom. They spin, sew, embroider, 
superintend the house, keep account of expenses, pay 
the servant's wages, and see that proper care is taken 
of the horses. Sir Robert Porter, speaking of this 
class of Persian females, says, " They do all the la- 
borious part of the household establishment; each 
having her own especial department, such as baking 
the bread, cooking the meat, drawing the water, &c. 
Though the latest espoused is usually spared in 
these labors, and the best dressed, still the whole 
party seem to remain in good humor. When their 
lord shows himself among them, it is like a master 
coming into a herd of favorite animals. They all 
rush forward, frisking about him, pleased with a ca- 
ress, or frisking still if they meet with a pat instead. 
The four wives of my worthy host retire at sunset, 
and each taking her infant and cradle to the roof of 
her division of the house, not forgetting the skin of 
water she has brought from the well, deposits her 
babe in safety, and suspends the water-case near her, 
on a tripod of sticks, in order that the evaporation 
may cool it for next day's use. Our communicative 
host told me that to preserve amity among these 
women, he was accustomed, like all husbands who 
valued peace, to divide his time and attention equat* 


ly and alternately among them. Indeed the law of 
Mohammed, though it allows four wives, expressly 
stipulates that the first married shall experience no 
diminution of wardrobe, or accustomed privileges, in 
consequence of the introduction of a new bride into 
the family. 

When women of the common classes leave their 
houses they scrupulously conceal their faces with a 
veil woven like a fine net, or a cloak with two holes 
just big enough for their eyes ; but the neck is often 
less carefully covered than the face. Like all orien- 
tal women, they are very fond of perfumes and orna- 
ments. Their clothing is usually chosen and pur- 
chased for them, as we do for little children. 

On the death of a husband, they lay aside all rich 
and showy apparel, and assume the garb of mourn- 
ing, which among the Persians is pale brown. For 
months and months they pay daily visits to the 
grave, watering it with tears, rending their garments, 
and tearing their hair. The law allows widows to 
marry again, but they seldom take a second husband. 
In many cases, the anniversary of the birthday of 
the deceased is for years kept as a solemn festival 
by his family and friends. 

Several years ago, a beautiful Circassian accompa- 
nied the Persian ambassador to London, where she 
excited great attention, and was treated with distin- 
guished kindness. Sir Robert Porter met her when 
she was returning to Persia, mounted on a miserable 
post-horse. He says, " The poor creature, perceiv- 
ing that I was a European, rode forward to address 


me ; but in a moment the rough fellow who was her 
conductor laid his whip over her shoulders, with so 
terrible an admonition into the bargain, that, closing 
both her lips and her veil, she travelled on, doubtless 
with heavy recollections. To interfere in behalf of 
a woman so situated would cast a sort of contamina- 
tion on her, and only redouble her stripes." 

Women whose husbands are not rich enough to 
furnish palanquins, ride astride a horse, muffled in a 
great sheet, which makes them look like a bag of 
flour placed upright. Sometimes they are stuffed 
into panniers slung across a mule or a camel, like 
poultry on the way to market. If there be but one 
traveller, some heavy article is put into the opposite 
basket as a balance. 

When the ambassador Meerza Abul Hassan was 
in England, nothing excited his surprise so much as 
the fact that women sometimes undertook voyages. 
" Is it possible !" he exclaimed : " if I were to tell our 
Persian women that there were English women in 
ships, they would never believe me. They consider 
it a great undertaking to go from one town to ano- 
ther ; but your women go from one end of the world 
to the other, and think nothing of it. If it were even 
known to my family that I was now in a ship, on 
the high seas, there would be nothing but wailing 
and lamentation from morning till night." 

The architectural remains and ancient literature 
of Hindostan give a high idea of their knowledge 
and refinement in remote ages. According to their 


old poets, women were then regarded with a kind of 
chivalrous gallantry, and enjoyed a degree of per- 
sonal freedom, to which modern Asiatic women are 
entire strangers : Sacontalu, the adopted daughter 
of a holy Bramin, is the heroine of an interesting 
old drama, in which she is mentioned as receiving 
strangers with the most graceful hospitality; and 
when Dusmantha was absent from his capital, his 
mother governed in his stead. Women were then 
admitted as witnesses in courts of justice, and where 
the accused was a female, their evidence was even 

Malabar boasts of her seven sages, and four of 
them were women. The celebrated Avyar, one of 
the most ancient of these sages, probably lived more 
than a thousand years ago. Her origin and birth 
are involved in poetic fable ; but her works are still 
extant, and held in much estimation. They princi- 
pally consist of short moral sentences, like the fol- 
lowing : " Speak not of God but with reverence." 
u The sweetest bread is that earned by labor." " The 
genuine object of science is to distinguish good from 
evil." " Let thy books be thy best friends." " Mo- 
desty is the fairest ornament of a woman." " There 
is no virtue without religion." 

The Mohammedan creed, which everywhere pro- 
duces a miserable effect on the destiny of women, 
has considerably changed their condition in Hindos- 
tan. The higher classes among the Hindoos, without 
adopting the religion of the Mussulmans, copied their 
jealous precautions with regard to females 


Wives are numerous, according to the wealth and 
character of their owners. A petty Hindoo chief 
has been known to have several hundred female 
slaves shut up in his zananah.^ Under these un- 
natural circumstances, we cannot wonder at the 
character of women given by one of their pundits, 
as the Braminical expositors of law are called : he 
says, " Women are characterized, first, by an inordi- 
nate love of jewels, fine clothes, handsome furniture, 
and dainty food ; second, by unbounded profligacy ; 
third, by violent anger and deep resentment, no one 
knowing the sentiments that lie concealed in their 
hearts ; fourth, another person's good appears evil in 
their eyes." This is but one among many instances 
wherein men have reproached the objects of their 
tyranny with the very degradation and vices which 
their own contempt and oppression have produced. 
How can it be wondered at that women, with all the 
feelings and faculties of human nature, and unnatu- 
rally deprived of objects for their passions, affections, 
or thoughts, should seek excitement in petty strata- 
gem and restless intrigue ? 

No Hindoo woman is allowed to give evidence in 
courts of justice. The Bramins have power to put 
their wives to death for unfaithfulness ; but it is said 
that milder punishments are more usually inflicted. 
Sometimes reconciliation takes place, and the event 
is celebrated by a feast, to which the neighboring Bra- 
mins are invited, and the culprit waits upon them at 

* The Hindoo word for harem. 


This crime in Hindoo women is generally punished 
by expulsion from their caste, a heavy fine, and the 
bastinado. It is considered a still more disgraceful 
penalty to have the hair cut off* This is rarely in- 
flicted, except upon very abandoned females, who are 
afterward plastered with filth, and led about on a 
donkey, accompanied with the sound of tamtams. 

Instances of extreme injustice sometimes occur, as 
must always be the case where human beings are 
invested with arbitrary power. 

One of the rajahs of Hindostan had a beautiful 
wife, whom he loved better than all the rest of his 
women. A young man, who was originally his barber, 
gained his confidence to such a degree, that nothing 
could be done but through his interest. The rajah, 
having accepted an invitation to an annual festival 
held at a great distance, trusted every thing to the 
integrity of this prime minister. Before his master 
had been gone a week, the villain dared to make love 
to his favorite wife. She treated him with indigna- 
tion and scorn, and threatened, if he continued to 
repeat professions of his love, that she would expose 
his baseness. He knew the rajah had a most fiery 
and impetuous temper, and he at once resolved how 
to escape danger, and to be revenged upon his vir- 
tuous victim. He sought an interview with his mas- 
ter the very first moment he returned, and by a tissue 
of plausible falsehoods, made him believe that his fa- 
vorite wife was a faithless creature, entirely unwor- 
thy of his confidence. The rajah, in a fit of blind 
fury, flew into the zananah, and without speaking a 


word, murdered the beautiful object of his recent at- 

The circumstance was soon forgotten; for such 
murders were common, and punishable by no laws. 
Even the nearest relatives of the deceased did not 
ask the reason of such violence. 

Thus precarious must all attachments be where 
moral and intellectual sympathy have no share in 
the union. 

After a considerable time had elapsed, one of the 
rajah's wives, on her death-bed, said she had some- 
thing important to disclose to her husband ; the 
guilty favorite immediately imagined that his mur- 
dered victim had made her a confident of his infa- 
mous designs, and he fled with all possible precipita- 
tion. His fears proved true ; the dying wife disclos- 
ed the whole history of his treachery. The rajah 
tore his hair, and ran round the palace like a mad- 
man. Horsemen were despatched in every direction, 
but the wicked minister escaped. The agonized 
prince did all he could — he raised a splendid temple 
to the memory of his murdered wife. Within the 
temple is her image, the eyes of which are costly dia- 
monds. The unfortunate rajah at last went mad. He 
would look at his hands, and wash them a hundred 
times a day ; but he could not cleanse the blood from 
his memory. 

The Hindoo women frequently follow their hus- 
bands to battle, and perish by their side. Rather 
than fall into the power of conquering enemies* 



they often commit suicide, or entreat their husbands 
to kill them. 

Females are engaged in almost every variety of 
occupation, according to the caste of their husbands. 
They cultivate the land, make baskets and mats, 
bring water in jars, carry manure and various other 
articles to market in baskets on their heads, cook 
food, tend children, weave cloth, reel skeins of thread, 
and wind cocoons. A single cocoon is divided into 
twenty degrees of fineness ; and these silk- winders 
have such an exquisite sense of touch, that when the 
thread is running swiftly through their fingers, they 
break it off exactly as the assortments change. 
Cashmere shawls are sometimes woven in a manner 
so delicate, that they can be drawn through a wed- 
ding ring ; and they manufacture muslin so transpa- 
rent, that when laid on the grass it does not at aH in- 
tercept the color. 

It has been said that there is no country in the 
world where so many people live in idleness. This is 
no doubt in a great measure to be ascribed to the ener- 
vating influence of their brilliant climate, the abun- 
dance produced by a luxuriant soil, and the slight 
shelter or clothing required, where the air is so uni- 
formly mild, and the sky serene. All travellers 
agree that the scenery of Hindostan is beautiful, 
almost beyond imagination. Magnificent temples 
and tombs indicate the grandeur of former times, 
while the gorgeous edifices of more recent periods 
denote the wealth, if not the classic taste of her 
princes ; innumerable rivers fertilize and adorn the 


land, while the air is perfumed with the lavish 
abundance of blossoms and fruit. The inhabitants 
love to repose in the cool shadow of their broad-leaved 
foliage ; and the women are said to be so languidly 
indolent, that they will hardly stretch forth their 
arms to save their children from being trodden to 
death. One of their favorite authors says : " It is 
better to sit still than to walk ; better to sleep than 
to be awake ; and death is the best of all." 

In pictures of Hindoo women of the higher classes, 
I have always observed a dangling and listless posi- 
tion of the arms and fingers, which indicates all the 
writer has expressed. If any thing affects them 
disagreeably, they are apt to signify it by lolling 
out their tongues. 

When a father dies, the eldest son supplies his 
place, in protecting and providing for his mother 
and younger members of the family. The widow 
can only claim an allowance necessary for her sup- 
port ; but filial piety is so highly reverenced by the 
Hindoos, that children often stint themselves that 
their parents need not suffer. The greatest insult 
that can be offered a Hindoo is to speak contemptu- 
ously of his mother. 

The features of the Hindoos differ little from those 
of Europeans ; but their complexion is of a deep 
mahogany hue. A very perceptible difference of 
physiognomy characterizes the various castes. Those 
who do not labor are less vigorous than Europeans, 
but more elegantly shaped. The women are said to 
be extremely beautiful, with delicate, regular fea- 

VOL I. 7 


tures, and remarkably fine dark eyes ; but they lose 
their beauty at an early age. They are generally dis- 
tinguished by a childish simplicity and modest grace- 
fulness, which is very attractive. If the husband is 
dissatisfied with his wife, he parts from her and 
seeks another ; and the wife can do the same with 
regard to her husband. Some reasons are required 
to be given, but where both parties agree in wishing 
for divorce it is very easily obtained. Sometimes 
when a man desires a separation he calls his wife 
mother > and after that it is considered indelicate to 
live with her* Sometimes an occasional visiter ad- 
dresses the females of the house in this way, as a 
pledge of his purity. The poor seldom have more 
than one wife ; and if she has children they rarely 
part from her as long as they live. The women 
are generally faithful and submissive to their hus- 
bands, and very fond of their families. Even the 
poorest of them esteem it a great misfortune to be 
childless. They regard it, as the Jews did of old, as 
a peculiar visitation of God, and spare neither pray- 
ers, alms, offerings, nor penances, to avert this ca- 
lamity. They are often seen performing long jour- 
neys, with two or three little children, whom they 
lead by the hand or carry on their backs. 

Women, even of the higher classes, are forbidden 
to read or write ; because the Hindoos think these ac- 
quirements would inevitably spoil them for domestic 
life, and assuredly bring some great misfortune up- 
on them. Many stories are circulated concerning 
the dreadful accidents that have happened to women, 


who could read and write. Poetry, music, and 
dancing, are cultivated only by a class of women, 
openly and avowedly licentious. The wives of 
rajahs, and the numerous favorites of the Moham- 
medan grandees, do indeed divert their lords with 
dancing in the interior of the zananah, but it would 
be deemed highly disgraceful to indulge in this amuse- 
ment before strangers. Nothing shocks an East 
Indian more than the European custom of ladies 
and gentlemen dancing with each other ; they cannot 
believe that it does not indicate great corruption of 

From the remotest antiquity, dancing has been 
associated with religion in India. The devedassees 
are young girls devoted to the service of the temple 
almost from their infancy ; and this is considered so 
great an honor, that even the rajahs are anxious to 
obtain it for their daughters. They must be well 
shaped, of pleasing features, of good constitutions, 
and of very tender age ; the parents are likewise re- 
quired to renounce all further claim to the child. 
The devedassees, after bathing the novitiate in the 
tank belonging to the temple, dress her in new 
clothes and adorn her with jewels ; the high priest 
puts into her hand an image of the deity, to whose 
service she devotes herself with a solemn vow ; the 
lobes of her ears are then bored, and the seal of the 
temple imprinted on her with red-hot iron. The 
great pagoda of Juggernaut contains five or six hun- 
dred of these girls. The Bramins teach them to 
read, write, sing, and dance. They must likewise 


be versed in the history of their gods ; but they are 
forbidden to read the vedas.* They take care of the 
temples, light the lamps, and sing and dance before 
the statue of the god, on solemn festivals. Some 
say the devedasses are entirely subservient to the 
pleasures of the Bramins, who are exceedingly jea- 
lous of them ; others say they are at liberty to choose 
any lovers, in or out of the temple, provided they be 
of the higher castes. The tips of their nails are 
stained red. The long braided hair, the neck, the 
naked arms, and the feet are covered with jewels ; 
rings on the hand, rings on the feet, rings in the ears, 
and sometimes rings in the side of the nose ; literally, 
according to the old nursery story, " with rings on 
her fingers and bells on her toes." The silver chains 
and bells with which they decorate the ankles and 
feet, make a monotonous but agreeable sound, as 
they dance, that mingles pleasantly with the small 
drums, tambourines, and silver cymbals, to which they 
keep time. In their hands they hold wooden casta- 
nets, which they strike in cadence. At the end of 
each dance they turn toward the idol, with their 
hands clasped before their faces. All make precisely 
the same movements and gestures at the same mo- 
ment. When they become old, or the Bramins, for 
any other reason, wish to have them leave, they are 
dismissed from the pagoda. The temple where they 
serve furnishes them with food, clothing, and pay ; 
but when they leave, they are obliged to relinquish 
all articles of ornament. They are ever after re- 

* Certam sacred books. 


ceived in society with peculiar respect, a degree of 
sanctity is attached to their character, and it is con- 
sidered an honor to marry them. If turned out of 
the temple in their old age, they are liable to be 
in destitute circumstances, unless they have a hand- 
some daughter to succeed them ; if so , they may safe- 
ly rely upon filial kindness. 

There is another class of Hindoo dancers, called 
canceni, or bayaderes. They are avowedly courte- 
sans ; but not disgraced by assuming that character, 
as women are in Christian countries. They receive 
the same education as the devedassees, or sacred dan- 
cers ; but they are not like them confined to the ser- 
vice of the temples. Wealthy men hire them at en- 
tertainments, and some grandees keep a whole com- 
pany constantly in their service. They too are load- 
with jewels, bracelets, armlets, carcanets, coronals, 
rings, ear-rings, nose-rings, bells, and chains. The 
dress of a distinguished dancer often costs from fif- 
teen to twenty thousand rupees. They surround 
their eyes with a black circle, made with the head 
of a pin dipped in powder of antimony. Those who 
are accustomed to it think it increases beauty of ex- 

To preserve the comeliness of their forms, they co- 
ver the bosom with hollow cases of wood, linked to- 
gether, and buckled at the back. These cases are 
made so very thin and pliable, that they move freely 
with the slightest motion of the body ; they are 
plated with gold or silver, and sometimes set with 
gems. There is nothing loud or bold in the manners 


of these degraded women. They are all softness, 
gentleness, and coquetry ; but their dances, and the 
songs that accompany them, in which the Orientals 
take unbounded delight, are voluptuous beyond de- 

There is another genuine Hindoo dance, called 
nautch, that differs in all respects from the dances 
performed by the devedassees, or the canceni. " It is 
executed by three women, who display in their steps 
and attitude a degree of seductive gracefulness asto- 
nishing to Europeans." These dancers are called 
ramdjenies. Their dress is embroidered with gold 
and silver. They wear trowsers of very rich stuff, 
with a circle of bells around the ankles. Their low- 
er garment is very ample, and becomes inflated like a 
balloon, when they turn swiftly. 

One of the most remarkable features of Hindostan, 
is the division of society into distinct castes. Nearly 
a hundred different castes exist, the distinctions of 
which the Bramins themselves are puzzled to define. 

The parias, who are considered the scum of all the 
castes, have a most deplorable lot. These absurd 
regulations subject the masters of houses to great 
expense, as the meanest domestic absolutely refuses 
to perform any office but the one allotted to his or her 

A religious and civil law forbids any mixture of 
blood between the different castes. It is singular 
that a man is not degraded from his caste for being 
vicious, or for believing or disbelieving certain arti- 
cles of religion ; but he is degraded for intermarrying 


With an inferior caste, forming a friendship with any 
such, or partaking food with them. Customs that 
have some degree of similarity are hereditary among 
the descendants of the Jewish nation, and in some 
parts of the Chinese empire ; hut the nearest parallel 
to the Hindoo distinction of castes exists between the 
white and colored population of the United States of 
America. There is indeed some difference. The 
wealthy American, if starving, would gladly partake 
food with the mulatto, whose companionship would 
disgrace him under other circumstances ; but the 
high caste Bramin would die rather than receive sus- 
tenance from a paria. 

" A Bramin, being oppressed with thirst as he jour- 
neyed along, met a woman of low condition carrying 
a vessel of water on her head. He asked her for 
some to drink ; but, that he might not receive water 
from an impure hand, he formed a little channel on 
the ground ; the woman poured the water in at one 
end, while the Bramin drank at the other. One of 
his own caste, who happened to be passing at the 
time, accused him before the council of the Bramins ; 
the affair was investigated, and he narrowly escaped 
the sentence of exclusion from his caste." 

It is said that all distinctions cease in the temple 
of Juggernaut, on the occasion of a yearly festival ; 
in commemoration of the primitive equality of man- 
kind, the Bramin and the paria then eat together, 
without any disastrous consequences. 

It is rare to find an unmarried female in India, 
except those who have been betrothed in infancy, 



and lost their partners before the period of what 
they call "the second marriage." These girls can 
never marry without losing caste ; but as the af- 
fections cannot be controlled by custom, these un- 
fortunate beings often forfeit their characters by 
imprudence. Suicides on this account were so com- 
mon, that an officer of the British government, in 
order to prevent them in his district, commanded 
that all such corpses should be exposed to the public 
gaze. The law proved so effectual, that there was 
never any necessity for enforcing it. 

Marriages between little girls and very old men 
are common in India. The Hindoo girls usually 
marry between the ages of seven and nine years, and 
the boys between twelve and fourteen. The wife 
must not only be of the same caste with her husband, 
but also of the same family. The Hindoo has a 
right to marry the daughter of his father, or of his 
mother's brother. Parents cannot give a denial 
when their daughter is demanded, because brothers 
and sisters only, of the same caste, are forbidden to 
marry ; but under that name the law includes the 
children of the father's brothers, and of the mother's 

The ceremonies vary among different castes, and 
in different districts. The wealthy give very expen- 
sive entertainments, the cost of which is defrayed by 
the husband's father. The practice likewise varies 
in regard to dowry. In the superior castes, the wife 
generally brings her husband a portion ; but among 
the sooders, the bridegroom gives a sum of money 


to the bride's father. One kind of the ancient Hin- 
doo marriages required no ceremony but the mutual 
consent of the parties. Without witnesses, they 
exchanged necklaces or wreaths of flowers, the girl 
saying, " I am thy wife;" and the bridegroom reply- 
ing, " It is true." In the inferior castes the marriage 
ceremony is still very simple, but it is not considered 
legal unless performed in the presence of the chief 
of the tribe. 

A singular custom has been said to prevail in a 
town of the Carnatic. When a young couple are 
conducted to the temple, the bride offers her hand to 
the priest, who cuts off* the third and little finger at 
the second joint. In ancient times both parties sa- 
crificed a joint of the finger ; but as this sometimes 
made it difficult for the husband to follow his profes- 
sion, the Bramins decided that the woman should 
make a double sacrifice, and lose two fingers instead 
of one. A woman of that caste considers it a dis- 
grace to have all her fingers. 

Before any match is concluded, great pains is 
taken to ascertain whether the aspect of the stars 
predicts a fortunate or unfortunate union. Marriages 
are solemnized only in February, May, June, Octo- 
ber, and the beginning of November. 

When a Hindoo has fixed his mind upon what he 
considers a suitable match for his son, he sends a 
stranger to sound the girl's father, in order to save 
himself the shame of an open rejection. If the sug- 
gestion be favorably received, he goes and makes a 
formal proposition. He must be accompanied by 

100 HINDOO WO M E N . 

some married woman, by several relations, and a 
Bramin skilled to explain omens. To meet a dealer 
in oil, a dog that shakes his ears, a crow flying over 
their heads, and a hundred other such things, are 
considered signs so unlucky, as to make it necessary 
to defer the visit. He generally carries the pariam, 
a sum of money from four to six guineas, as the 
price of the girl. Such marriages are said to be by 
pariam. The bride's father returns the visit with 
great ceremony and pomp, carrying presents to the 
bridegroom. After these formalities, the girl is con- 
sidered as sold ; but the match may be broken off, 
and the pariam returned, if it be determined by a 
general meeting of the relatives, and sometimes of 
the whole caste, that the bride's father has any jus- 
tifiable reason for so doing. To avoid the expense 
of an entertainment which it is customary to give, 
the pariam is frequently paid on the wedding day ; 
but some pay it a year beforehand. The bridegroom 
presents the bride with a piece of silk, which she 
wears on the wedding day. This garment is always 
silk, if the parties be ever so poor. If the pariam be 
in money, it is tied up in one corner of this robe ; if 
it be a jewel, it is laid upon it. 

There is another kind of marriage where the pa- 
riam is dispensed with. This is called cannigada- 
nam, which signifies the gift of a maiden. 

When the day is fixed for the wedding, the bride's 
father builds a bower of lattice-work in the court- 
yard of his house. The erection of this pendal, or 
marriage bower, is considered a publication of the 


bans, and friends and relations immediately pay a 
ceremonious visit. The female friends, walking un- 
der a canopy, bring presents of betel to the young 
couple. In the midst of the court is set up a stone 
image of Polear, god of marriage. The Bramins 
make offerings of cocoas, bananas, and betel, praying 
that the god would be propitious to the marriage. 
As soon as the pendal is finished, the image is re- 
moved. The bridegroom, richly dressed, and accom- 
panied by his friends in festal attire, is conducted to 
the house of the bride. Here a particular ceremony is 
performed, called taking away the looks ; for the Hin- 
doos believe the most deplorable consequences would 
ensue, if any person looked on the young man with 
envious, or malicious eyes. To avert this disaster, 
they prepare a basin of water colored red, which they 
turn round three times before the face of the bride- 
groom, and then throw it into the street ; sometimes 
they tear a strip of cloth before him, and throw the 
pieces different ways ; and sometimes they fasten 
certain mystic rings on the heads of the couple. 
The bridegroom and bride, splendidly dressed, are 
carried about for several days in palanquins, accom- 
panied by a long train of relations and friends, some 
riding on horses, and some on elephants, preceded 
by musicians and dancing girls. These processions 
are generally in the evening, attended by illumina- 
tions and fireworks. While these ceremonies con- 
tinue, the dancing girls meet in the pendal morning 
and evening, and rub the young couple with naleng, 
the small green seed of a plant sacred to marriage. 


While the assembled guests are dining, the bride 
and bridegroom eat together from the same plate. 
This is the only time during her whole life that a 
Hindoo wife is allowed to eat with her husband. 
On the wedding day, the bride and bridegroom sit 
beside each other, at one end of the pendal, which is 
lighted with a great number of lamps. The Bra- 
mins, on a raised platform, surrounded with jars of 
water, offer prayers to their gods. They then kindle 
the sacrificial fire, with various kinds of sacred wood, 
and repeat prayers and invocations, while they throw 
into the flames incense, sandal-wood, oil, butter, rice, 
and other things. When the prayers are ended, the 
father of the bride puts her hand within that of the 
bridegroom, calls the god of fire to witness his 

words, and then repeats after the Bramin : " I, , 

the son of and grandson of — —, give my 

daughter to thee, son of — ? — and grandson of ." 

The Bramin breaks a cocoa-nut in two, blesses the 
tali, which all present are required to touch, and gives 
it to the bridegroom, who hangs it round the neck of 
the bride. The tali is a golden ornament for the neck, 
made in various forms, and is worn by all married 
women, in the same manner as the wedding-ring with 
us. The young couple walk three times round the 
fire, and the bridegroom swears in presence of the 
Bramin that he will take care of his wife. He then 
casts into the fire boiled rice and butter, and she 
casts in parched rice. The priest repeats prayers 
while he mixes a little saffron with raw rice. This 
he first sprinkles over the shoulders of the husband* 


&nd then of the wife ; all who are present rise and 
perform the same ceremony, by way of benediction. 
In the marriages of princes, pearls are sometimes 
used instead of rice. The rest of the day is spent in 
diversions, and the last public procession takes place 
in the evening. 

Next day, they hasten to pull down the pendcd ; 
because it would be considered a very bad omen if 
it should happen to take fire. The bride is often so 
very young that she remains at her father's house 
for a considerable time after the wedding. When 
this is the case, she is afterward given to her hus- 
band with similar ceremonies and festivities, called 
" the second, or little, marriage." The Hindoo brides 
wear a hymeneal crown, and the color of the nuptial 
robe is golden yellow. 

Until a wife becomes a mother, she is obliged to 
obey the commands of her mother-in-law, and sees 
her husband by stealth. The birth of a child is at- 
tended with many religious ceremonies. The hus- 
band, assisted by Bramins, sprinkles the house with 
holy water, and all the inmates anoint themselves 
with oil, and wash themselves. The mother is 
bathed, and drinks a certain beverage prescribed for 
such occasions. On the tenth day, friends and rela- 
tions assemble to give a name to the infant ; but the 
Bramin first consults the planets, endeavors by 
prayer to avert any evil influence, and ties a zinar, 
or amulet, about the neck of the child. Presents 
are then made to the priests, and the ceremony is 
concluded with a feast and rejoicings. 


The Hindoo women make no use of a cradle* 
The babe, unshackled by any clothing or bandages y 
is laid on a large piece of cloth stretched on pieces 
of wood, something like a small quilting frame. This 
is suspended by strong cords from the ceiling, and two 
women swing it, by pushing it from one to the other. 

When the child has attained the age of six months, 
it is fed for the first time with rice prepared with 
milk and sugar. On this occasion a feast is made 
and all the relations invited. 

If a child dies, the mother sits at the door, or by 
the river's side, and utters loud lamentations, like 
the following : " Ah, my Huree-das, where has he 
gone ? Who has taken my golden image ? I never 
saw a face like unto his ! He played round me like 
a golden top ! Take me with thee 1" 

If any female neighbor tries, to console; her, she 
answers : " Ah, mother, the heart takes no advice. 
Was this a child to be forgotten ? He had a fore- 
head like a king I Since it was born the master 
never staid in the house; he was always walking 
about with the child in his arms ! I nourished and 
reared him — where is he gone ?" 

While mourning in this way, they sometimes beat 
their foreheads, tear their hair, and roll about, as if 
in agony. Hindoo wives never call their husbands 
by name, but always say, "the master." 

Very singular customs prevail among the people 
called Garos. If a man's wife prove unfaithful, he 
cannot obtain divorce, unless he chooses to give her 
all the property and children. A woman, on the 


contrary, may part from her husband when she 
pleases, and by marrying another person, convey to 
him the whole property of her former husband. The 
children go with her, but their rank is decided by 
that of the father. If the wife has a lover, the hus- 
band may indeed kill him, but he incurs the resent- 
ment of a]l the man's relations, and the woman 
would be very likely to revenge herself by transfer- 
ring the property to a new husband. Divorces are, 
however, said to be rare. When a chief dies, his 
heir is any one of his sister's sons, whom his widow 
may choose as a successor. If the youth is married, 
he immediately separates from his wife, who takes, 
all his private fortune and his children ; he marries 
the widow, and receives the wealth and rank of his 
predecessor. When the old lady dies, he is at liberty 
to choose a young wife, who, if she survive him, will, 
in her turn, select one of his sister's sons. The wife 
of a chief, when she divorces her husband, is obliged 
to choose one from the same noble family. The red 
turban and bell-metal bracelets, which are bestowed 
with great ceremony on the new chieftain, do not 
always make him contented with a partner so much 
older than himself. One, who was almost a boy, 
complained to an Englishman, with great simplicity, 
that he had married a toothless old woman, while 
his poor cousin had a pretty young wife, with whom 
he could play all the day long. 

The Bramins, by a peculiar custom, often take 
wives against their own will. If a father has a mar- 
riageable daughter, on whom lie wishes to see con- 


ferred the privileges belonging to a Bramin T s wife/ 
he invites the Bramin to his house, and introduces 
the girl to him ; she respectfully offers her hand to 
the unsuspecting visiter, and the moment he takes 
it, her father begins to repeat the genealogy of his- 
family. This constitutes a legal marriage, and there 
is no way of escape from it. 

Some writers have mentioned a tribe in the Car- 
natic, whose women are not allowed to be seen by 
any man, not even their husbands, who visit them 
only in the dark. Shut up in secluded apartments 
with their female companions, they employ them- 
selves in weaving mats and baskets, and similar oc- 
cupations. Even their sons are taken from them at 
three or four years old, and never suffered to look on 
them again. Women of their own tribe nurse them 
when they are ill, and when dead, their husbands 
sew them up in a sack, before they are carried to 
the funeral pile. This singular tribe was never 
large, and is now said to be nearly extinct. 

The clothing of the Hindoos is seldom washed ; 
for neatness is not their characteristic. The fashion 
of their garments is modest; the arms and upper 
part of the neck only being uncovered. Women of 
all castes, throughout India, load themselves with 
jewels. Common bracelets are made of vitrified 
earth, green, yellow, and black. Another kind are 
made of glass, and esteemed beautiful in proportion 
to the closeness with which they fit to the arm. 
Blood is often drawn, and the skin rubbed off, in 
getting them over the hand ; and as they are conti- 


nually breaking, the poor girls suffer not a little 
for their vanity. Gems, gold, and rare shells, ex- 
quisitely manufactured, are worn in the utmost pro- 
fusion by those who can afford them. The loss of 
the precious metals in India, by friction alone, is 
said to be immense. The fashion is of ancient date, 
for the oldest statues of their gods and goddesses are 
almost buried in jewels. 

Females of the higher castes, married or unmar- 
ried, never go abroad alone, and without being 
completely veiled. If by any accident their faces 
happen to be uncovered, and they meet a European, 
they run, as fast as they can, into the first Hindoo 
house that has an appearance of respectability. In 
the interior of the country, a whole village of women 
are put in consternation by the sight of a European ; 
this is probably in some measure owing to the in- 
sults of intoxicated soldiers. 

The rajpoots, one of the military tribes of Hindos- 
tan, treat their women with an unusual degree of 
respect. A rajpoot never forgives an insult offered 
to his wife or daughter, and nothing but the death 
of the culprit can atone for his offence. None but 
the grandees avail themselves of the privilege to 
% take several wives ; and even they seldom do it, ex- 
cept from political considerations. Their married 
women never visit any but their nearest relatives ; 
and any female would be very much ashamed of be- 
ing seen in public. The rajpoots, though exceedingly 
kind husbands and sons, have one strangely unnatu- 
ral custom ; they put to death new-born female in- 

108 HINDOO women; 

fants when they have no prospect of an advantageous 
settlement for them. The daughters which they 
bring up are kept most rigidly secluded from society. 
Merely to have been seen by any other man than 
their very nearest relation is considered pollution. 
The rajpoots carry this feeling so far, that when 
they cannot escape from a besieging enemy, they 
murder all their women, to prevent their being seen 
by strangers. 

The Mahrattas of Hindostan form a kind of mili- 
tary republic, and live in a miserably uncleanly, 
half-barbarous manner. The women have very little 
beauty, and have generally a bold look, different 
from any other Hindoo females. The poor sling 
their children over their shoulders in a bag, and 
march thus a whole day, without any apparent fa- 
tigue. They accompany the army on horseback, 
with faces uncovered, and seated in the same manner 
as the men. A circumstance related by Broughton, 
in his Letters, gives us reason to think highly of the 
morals of this rude tribe. A young girl served in 
Sindia's army two or three years, without being 
discovered. She gained the confidence of her supe- 
riors, and the regard of her associates, by conduct 
remarkably regular and exemplary. She always 
dressed her own dinner, and ate it by herself; and 
she was never seen to wash in the presence of any 
person. The secret which she took so much pains 
to conceal, was discovered by a young comrade, who 
followed her when she went to bathe. As soon as it 
was known that a woman had served so long: and so 


faithfully in the army, Sindia made her flattering 
offers of promotion in the corps to which she be- 
longed, and his wife proposed to receive her into her 
own household; but Jooruor Singh, as the young 
soldier was named, refused all patronage, and conti- 
nued to serve for some months. She was about 
twenty-two years of age, with a fair and interesting 
countenance, though not handsome. She frankly 
answered questions concerning her situation, alike 
without bashfulness or boldness. It was finally dis- 
covered that the affectionate creature had encoun- 
tered the fatigues and perils of military life with the 
hope of raising money enough to liberate a beloved 
brother imprisoned at Bopal. As soon as this cir- 
cumstance became known to Sindia, he discharged 
her from the army, made her a liberal donation, and 
gave her a letter to the nabob of Bopal, earnestly 
recommending her and her brother to his protection. 

It is very much to the honor of all parties, that 
Jooruor Singh, from the moment she was known to 
be a woman, received increased deference and atten- 
tion ; not even the meanest soldier presumed to utter 
an offensive word in her presence. 

This furnishes a good commentary on the severe 
but often-evaded laws of the harem. Perfect exter- 
nal freedom is always the greatest safeguard of virtue. 

The Nairs, on the coast of Malabar, have very ex- 
traordinary customs, for the origin of which it is 
difficult to account. Their women are beautiful and 
remarkably neat. They are usually married before 
they are ten years of age ; but it would be deemed 


exceedingly indecorous for the husband to live witfr 
his wife, or even to visit her, except as an acquaint- 
ance. She lives with her mother, and prides her- 
self on the number of her lovers, especially if they 
he Bramins or rajahs ; but if any of them were her 
inferiors, she would be immediately expelled from 
her caste, which is the greatest misfortune that can 
befall a Hindoo. Owing to these strange customs, a 
Nair has much more affection for his sister's children 
than for those of his wife, and no one is offended at 
being asked who is his father. The husband is, of 
course, the lover of some other married dame. If he 
offers the lady cloth for a dress, and she accepts 
it, the matter is settled, until they see fit to change. 
Sons inherit the fortune of the maternal grandfather. 
The heir apparent to the throne of Travancore is not 
the son of the rajah's wife, but of his oldest sister, 
who is treated as queen. 

The Nairs treat their mothers with the utmost 
respect, and have a filial regard for maternal uncles 
and aunts ; but they scarcely notice their fathers, 
and have little affection for brothers and sisters. 
Yet notwithstanding this allowed profligacy, these 
singular people are very jealous of the honor of their 
women. An intrigue with a European, or one of a 
different tribe, would be punished with death. The 
Bramins indeed are allowed to be the lovers of wives 
and daughters of the other superior castes ; their 
proposals are deemed too great an honor to be re- 
fused. The disgusting class called fakirs likewise 
obtain great influence over the minds of women by 


their ostentatious sanctity. They often carry beau- 
tiful girls to their temples, under the pretence that 
the god has chosen them for wives ; and this is con- 
sidered an enviable distinction. The women among 
the Nairs go with the upper part of the person en- 
tirely uncovered ; as is generally the case through- 
out Malabar, and even in the southern parts of the 
peninsula. They have their ears bored in childhood, 
and in order to enlarge the aperture, they put in a 
rolled leaf of the cocoa tree, or suspend a piece of 
lead ; afterward they insert small round ivory cases. 
They wear the hair flowing loosely behind, or hang- 
ing in several tresses curiously braided. It is never 
cut off, except in seasons of mourning, or as a pu- 

The women in this part of Hindostan have a sin- 
gular custom. When a young girl is betrothed, 
when she is married, and when a son is born, all the 
female relatives meet at her house, and make the 
event known to the neighbors by a long, loud, mo- 
notonous howl, which one would suppose was in* 
tended to express any thing but joy. 

There is a caste in Hindostan, comprising all 
painters and gilders, in which brothers marry their 
sisters, and uncles their nieces. 

At funerals, hired female mourners tear their hair, 
beat themselves, and utter dismal cries. The custom 
of widows burning themselves upon the funeral pile 
of their husbands is not commanded as a religious 
duty in any of their sacred writings ; but enthusiastic 
devotees have been led to sanction the cruel ceremo- 


ny by the following text : " The woman who dies 
with her husband shall enjoy life eternal with him 
in heaven." 

A woman who resolves upon this sacrifice, abstains 
from food as soon as her husband is dead, and con- 
tinually repeats the name of the god he had wor- 
shipped. When the hour arrives, she adorns her- 
self with rich clothes and jewels, and goes to the 
funeral pile, attended by her relations and friends, 
with the sound of musical instruments. The Bramins 
give her drink in which opium is mixed, and sing songs 
in praise of heroism. It is said that before the ceremo- 
ny they try to dissuade her from her project ; but the 
resolution once taken is sacred. One of them being 
warned of the pain she would endure, held her finger 
in the fire for some time, and then burned incense on 
the palm of her hand, to prove her contempt of suf- 
fering. Mr. Forbes mentions a female whose hus- 
band had amply provided for her by will, and, con- 
trary to the usual custom of the Hindoos, had made 
her perfectly independent of his family. " She per- 
sisted in her determination to accompany him to a 
better world, and suffered not the tears and supplica- 
tions of an aged mother and three helpless infants 
to change her purpose. An immense concourse of 
people of all ranks assembled, and a band of music 
accompanied the Bramins, who superintended the 
ceremony. The bower of death, en wreathed with 
sacred flowers, was erected over a pile of sandal- 
wood and spices, on which lay the body of the de- 
ceased. After various ceremonies, the music ceased, 


and the crowd in solemn silence waited the arrival 
of the heroine. She was attended by her mother 
and three lovely children, arrayed iri rich attire, and 
wearing the hymeneal crown. After a few religious 
ceremonies, the attendants took off her jewels, and 
anointed her dishevelled hair with consecrated ghee, 
as also the skirts of her yellow muslin robe. She 
then distributed her ornaments » among weeping 
friends, while two lisping infants clung around her 
knees to dissuade her from the fatal purpose ; the 
last pledge of conjugal love was taken from her bo- 
som by an aged parent in speechless agony. Freed 
from these heart -piercing mourners, the lovely widow, 
with an air of solemn majesty, received a lighted 
torch from the Bramins, with which she walked se- 
ven times round the pyre. Stopping near the en- 
trance of the bower, for the last time she addressed 
the fire, and worshipped the other deities prescribed ; 
then setting fire to her hair and the skirts of her 
robe, to render herself the only brand worthy of illu- 
minating the sacred pile, she threw away the torch, 
rushed into the bower, and embracing her husband, 
thus communicated the flames to the surrounding 
branches. The musicians immediately struck up 
the loudest strains, to drown the cries of the victim, 
should her courage have forsaken her ; but several 
of the spectators declared that the serenity of her 
countenance and the dignity of her behavior surpass- 
ed all the sacrifices of a similar nature they had ever 

Such an event is deemed very glorious to the fami- 


ly of the victim, and that of her husband. They are 
proud of her in proportion to the calmness and hero- 
ism with which she meets her fate. If the resolution 
of the poor creatures fail them at the last moment, 
they bring irretrievable disgrace on their connections. 
If they try to go back, they are often put to death 
by relatives, or expelled from their caste, and for- 
ever cut off from all intercourse with relations or 
friends. But notwithstanding religious enthusiasm, 
and the prejudices of education, they are not always 
resigned to their cruel fate. 

In 1796, the widow of a Bramin determined to be 
burned with the body of her husband. It was dark 
and rainy when the pile was lighted, and when she 
began to be scorched by the flames, she crept away 
tinperceived, and hid herself in the brushwood. It 
was soon discovered, and they dragged her forth. 
Her own son insisted that she should be thrown on 
the pile again, or else hang herself. She pleaded 
hard for life, but pleaded in vain. The son said he 
should be expelled from his caste, unless the sacrifice 
were completed, and that either he or she must die. 
Finding her still unwilling to destroy herself, the 
son and his companions bound her limbs and threw 
her on the funeral pile, where she quickly perished. 
The bones are carefully collected in vases, and 
thrown into some sacred river. The next day the 
Bramins sprinkle milk and consecrated water over 
the place, and sometimes erect a chapel. 

It not unfrequently happens that a number of wives 
are burned at once with the dead body of their hus- 



band ; and a willingness to make this sacrifice is 
said to be still more a point of honor with mistresses 
than with wives. When the chief Rao Lacka died? 
fifteen mistresses perished with him, but not one of 
his wives offered to sacrifice herself. A Koolin Bra- 
min of Bagnuparu had more than a hundred wives? 
twenty-two of whom were consumed with his corpse. 
The fire was kept kindled for three days, waiting the 
arrival of the numerous victims. Some of them 
were forty years old, and others no more than six- 
teen. Nineteen of them had seldom even seen the 
husband with whom they consented to perish. 

It is said the widows of Bramins less frequently 
immolate themselves than women of the other supe- 
rior castes, because the Bramins often take wives 
without any inclination for the union on either side. 

In 1819, a girl of fifteen determined to become a 
suttee. # The person to whom she had been betrothed 
died when she was six years old, and, according to 
custom, she had ever after remained unmarried. No 
entreaties could prevail on her to consent to live* 
She asked for a fiddle which had belonged to her 
betrothed, and jumped into the flames. 

Among the Mahrattas, and some other tribes/ 
whose custom it is to bury their dead, the sacrifice 
is made in a different manner. The widow is escort- 
ed to the grave by a solemn procession ; having lis- 
tened to the exhortations of the Bramins, and parted 
her jewels among friends, she places upon her head a 
pot filled with rice, plantain, betel, and water ; then 

* A widow who voluntarily immolates hers^f. 


with clasped hands she bids farewell to the specta- 
tors, and descends into the grave by means of a 
bamboo ladder ; she seats herself by the body of her 
husband, the ladder is drawn up, and the music re- 
sounds, while the relatives throw in a quantity of 
earth to suffocate the poor creature. 

The Shaster, or Hindoo Bible, forbids a woman to 
see dancing, hear music, wear jewels, blacken her 
eyebrows, eat dainty food, sit at a window, or view 
herself in a mirror, during the absence of her husband; 
and it allows him to divorce her if she has no sons, in- 
jures his property, scolds him, quarrels with another, 
or presumes to eat before he has finished his meal. 

Truly, in no part of the world does the condition 
of women appear more dreary than in Hindostan. 
The arbitrary power of a father disposes of them in 
childhood ; if the boy to whom they are betrothed 
dies before the completion of the marriage, they are 
condemned forever after to perpetual celibacy ; under 
these restraints, if their affections become interested 
and lead them into any imprudence, they are punish- 
ed with irretrievable disgrace, and in many districts 
with death ; if married, their husbands have despotic 
control over them ; if unable to support them, they 
can lend or sell them to a neighbor; and in the 
Hindoo rage for gambling, wives and children are 
frequently staked and lost ; if they survive their hus- 
bands, they must pay implicit obedience to the old- 
est son ; if they have no sons, the nearest male rela- 
tive holds them in subjection ; and if there happen 
to be no kinsmen, they must be dependent on the 

tflNDOO WOMEN. 11? 

chief of the tribe. Having spent life with scanty op- 
portunities to partake of its enjoyments, they be- 
come objects of contempt if they refuse to depart 
from it, in compliance with a most cruel custom. 

The self-immolation of widows is of great antiqui- 
ty. The natives have a tradition that women many 
centuries ago frequently murdered their husbands ; 
and the Bramins, finding the severest punishments 
of no avail, put an effectual check to it, by saying it 
was the will of the gods, that widows should be 
burned on the funeral pile of their husbands. 

The English government have made great exer- 
tions to abolish this abominable practice, and it is 
now prohibited by law in every part of British India. 

The Hindoo character is proverbial for patient 
mildness ; yet their religious superstitions continu- 
ally lead them to the most ferocious deeds. Fond 
as the women are of their children, they make a 
great merit of throwing them to the sacred croco- 
diles, and not unfrequently cast them from steep 
rocks, in fulfilment of some superstitious vow. 

They themselves undergo the most frightful pe- 
nances, and willingly lie down to be devoured by 
crocodiles, or crushed beneath the car of Juggernaut. 
Among the lighter penances, is that of conveying a 
great quantity of water from the sacred Ganges to a 
temple at some distance. Women of the higher 
castes, being unwilling to appear in the streets, hire 
others to perform this expiatory duty for them. 

The Kev. Dr. Buchanan, in his description of the 
sacrifices at the temple of Juggernaut, says : " At 


the place of skulls, I beheld a poor woman lying 
dead, or nearly dead, with her two children by her, 
looking at the dogs and vultures which were near. 
The people passed by without noticing the children. 
I asked them where was their home. They said they 
had no home but where their mother was." 

This bigoted attachment to customs so horrid and 
unnatural, is remarkable in a people who are so 
tolerant of the opinions of others. It is a singular 
fact that the Hindoos reverence the objects held sa- 
cred by other nations ; hence their women and chil- 
dren are frequently seen bringing offerings of fruit 
and flowers to the mosque of the Mohammedan, and 
the chapel of the Catholic. They say, " Heaven is 
like a palace with many doors, and every one may 
enter in his own way." 

The custom of murdering female infants, which 
formerly prevailed throughout several districts in 
India, is so unnatural that it could not be believed, 
if it were not proved beyond all possibility of doubt. 
The horrid act was generally done by the mothers 
themselves, either by administering opium as soon as 
a child was born, smothering it, or neglecting the 
precautions necessary to preserve life. Now and 
then a wealthy man saved one daughter, especially 
if he had no sons ; but the practice of infanticide 
was so general, that when the young men wanted 
wives, they were obliged to seek them in such 
neighboring tribes as their laws permitted them to 
marry. The marquis of Wellesley, during his go- 
vernment in India, made great exertions to have 


this abominable custom abolished ; but the natives 
were very stubborn in their prejudices. They urged 
the natural inferiority of females, the great responsi- 
bility which attended their bringing up, and the ex- 
pense incident upon their marriages. The arguments 
of the English, aided by the influence of certain 
solemn sentences from some of their sacred books, 
did, however, at last persuade them to abolish the 
barbarous practice. Colonel Walker was the British 
officer who, after much difficulty, prevailed on the 
Jarejah tribe to relinquish the custom. A year or 
two after, many of the Jarejah fathers and mothers 
brought their infant daughters to his tent, and ex- 
hibited them with the utmost pride and fondness. 
Grateful for the change produced in their habits, the 
mothers placed their children in colonel Walker's 
hands, called them his children, and begged him to 
protect those whom he had preserved. 

The gentle and inoffensive character of the Hin- 
doos is not without exceptions. Bands of robbers 
infest the more northern parts ; and some of them 
make use of a singular stratagem to decoy tra- 
vellers. They send out a beautiful woman, who 
with many tears complains of some -misfortune that 
has befallen her, and implores their protection. No 
sooner has the unwary traveller taken her behind 
him on horseback, than she strangles him with a 
noose, or stuns him with a blow on the head, until 
the robbers come from their hiding-place, and com- 
plete his destruction. It is generally supposed that 
these murderers came into India with the Mohan** 
medan conquerors, 


The Hindoos are very fond of shows and amuse- 
ments ; but in these the women, especially of the 
higher classes, have little share. The female pastimes 
consist principally of bathing, dressing, chewing betel, 
listening to story-tellers, and playing a species of 

In March the Hindoos keep a great festival called 
hohlee ; and it is a singular coincidence that during 
one of these holydays it is common to send peo- 
ple on absurd errands, in order to create a laugh at 
their expense, just as we do on the first of April. 
They likewise divert themselves with throwing about 
great quantities of earth used in painting, and known 
by the name of India red. The sport is to cast it 
into the eyes, mouth, and nose. Sometimes it is 
powdered with talc to make it glitter, and then if it 
gets into the eyes it is very painful. They likewise 
splash each other all over, with squirts filled with 
orange-colored water, made of the flowers of the 
dak tree. These frolics usually take place under the 
front awning of wealthy houses, or the terraces of 
the gardens, but sometimes within the buildings. A 
rajah, surrounded by his numerous wives, has a fair 
chance to get his full share of powdering and 

The hohlee is observed by all classes throughout 
Hindostan, with the most boisterous merriment. 
The utmost freedom is allowed to all ranks. Young 
men and old parade about the streets, singing inde- 
cent songs. Sometimes an individual dresses him- 
self up in the most fantastic style, to personify the 


hohlee^ and is followed by crowds throwing red dust 
and orange-colored water.. This custom, which is 
said to be connected with some religious tradition, is 
very similar to the observance of the carnival in 
Catholic countries. The Hindoo ladies have their 
share of the festivities ; but no one is allowed to join 
their parties except their husbands, or very young 

The wives of jugglers follow the same profession 
as their husbands. It is a common sight to see 
young women walking on their heads, with their 
feet in the air, turning round like a wheel, or walk- 
ing on their hands and feet, with the body bent 

A recent traveller thus describes one of the tricks 
which he saw performed : " A young and beautifully 
formed woman fixed on her head a stiff strong fillet, 
to which were fastened, at equal distances, twenty 
pieces of string, with a noose at the end of each. 
Under her arm she carried a basket containing twenty 
eggs. She advanced near us, and began to move 
rapidly round upon a spot not more than eighteen 
inches in diameter, from which she never deviated 
for an instant, though her rotation became so ex- 
ceedingly rapid as to render it painful to look at her. 
She absolutely spun round like a top. When her 
body had reached its extreme point of acceleration, 
she quickly drew down one of the strings, which 
had formed a horizontal circle round her, and put an 
egg into the noose. She then jerked it back to its 
original position, and continuing her gyrations with 

122 klN DO WO M £ fl . 

undiminished velocity, she secured all the eggs in the 
nooses prepared for them, until they were all flying 
around her head in one unbroken circular line. After 
this she continued her motions with undiminished 
velocity for at least five minutes, then seized the 
eggs one by one, and replaced them in the basket. 
This being done, she stopped in an instant, without 
the movement of a limb, or the vibration of a mus- 
cle, as if she had been suddenly transformed to mar- 
ble. She received our applauses with a calm counte- 
nance, and an apparent modesty of demeanor, which 
was doubtless the result of constitutional apathy, 
rather than refinement of feeling ; for these jugglers 
are generally among the most depraved of their 
caste. " 

The reputed wealth and fertile soil of Hindostan 
have attracted foreigners from all parts of the world. 
Some entered as conquerors, some sought refuge 
from persecution, and others went there for commer- 
cial purposes. The peculiar manners of these dif- 
ferent nations have become too variously modified 
to be particularly described. The Mohammedans, 
who obtained certain districts by conquest, are ex- 
travagantly fond of pomp and splendor. The nabob 
Asuf gave a proof of this in the wedding of his 
adopted son Vizier Aly. The bridegroom was about 
thirteen years of age, the bride ten. The prince 
could hardly move under the weight of his jewels. 
The procession consisted of about twelve hundred 
elephants richly caparisoned, of which one hundred 
in the centre had houdas, or castles, on their backs, 


covered with silver. In the midst was the nabob 
himself, within a houda covered with gold and set 
with precious stones. On both sides of the road 
was raised artificial scenery of bamboo-work, repre- 
senting arches, minarets, and towers, covered with 
lighted glass lamps. On each side were carried plat- 
forms, covered with gold and silver cloth, on which 
were musicians and dancing girls superbly dressed. 
The ground was inlaid with fireworks, and at every 
step of the elephants, rockets and fiery serpents shot 
forth, kindling the night into day. Three thousand 
flambeaux were likewise carried by men hired for the 

The palanquins in which the wealthy are carried 
are sometimes very magnificent. They are painted 
and gilded, ornamented with gold, silver, and jewels, 
with cushions and coverings of crimson velvet. 

The religion of Brama, as well as that of Moham- 
med, forbids women to appear in public ; but the 
lower classes of Hindoos do not attempt to comply 
with the inconvenient requisition. The Mohamme- 
dan women, on the contrary, are extremely puncti- 
lious on this point ; even the poorest never venture 
out of doors without being enveloped in a cotton veil 
made like a bag, with a slight net -work over the 
eyes and mouth. Those who cannot afford to travel 
in palanquins, ride astride on a bullock, which has a 
bell suspended to the neck, and a bridle passed 
through the nostrils. A more uncouth or unpleasant 
sight cannot well be imagined, unless it might be a 
shrouded corpse thus mounted. 

VOL. I. 9 


Mrs. Graham, in her very entertaining account of 
India, gives the following description of a visit to the 
harem of a Mohammedan chief: " My sister and I 
were allowed to enter, but we could by no means 
persuade the cazy to admit any of the gentlemen of 
our family. We ascended to the women's apartment 
by a ladder, which is removed when not in immedi- 
ate use, to prevent the ladies from escaping. We 
were received by the cazy's wife's mother, a fine old 
woman dressed in white, and without ornaments, as 
becomes a widow. The cazy's mother, and the rest 
of his father's widows, were first presented ; then 
Fatima, his wife, to whom our visit was paid ; and 
afterward his sisters, some of them fine, lively young 
women. They all crowded round us to examine our 
dress, and the materials of which it was composed. 
They were surprised at our wearing so few orna- 
ments ; but we told them it was the custom of our 
country, and they replied that it was good. I was 
not sorry they so openly expressed their curiosity, 
as it gave us a better opportunity of gratifying our 
own. The apartment in which we were received 
was about twenty feet square, and rather low. 
Round it were smaller rooms, most of them crowded 
with small beds, with white muslin curtains ; these 
were not particularly clean, and the whole suit 
seemed close and disagreeable. Most of the women 
were becomingly dressed. Fatima's arms, feet, and 
neck were covered with rings and chains ; her fin- 
gers and toes were loaded with rings ; her head was 
surrounded with a fillet of pearls, some strings of 


which crossed it several ways, and confined her hair, 
which was knotted up behind. On her forehead 
hung a cluster of colored stones, from which de- 
pended a large pearl, and round her face small strings 
of pearl hung at equal distances. Her ear-rings were 
very beautiful ; but I do not like the custom of 
boring the hem of the ear, and studding it all round 
with joys, or jewels ; and not even Fatima's beautiful 
face could reconcile me to the nose jewel. Her large 
black eyes (the chesme ahoo, or stag eyes, of the 
eastern poets) were rendered more striking by the 
black streaks with which they were adorned, and 
lengthened out at the corners. The palms of her 
hands, the soles of her feet, and her nails, were 
stained with henna, a plant, the juice of whose seeds 
is of a deep-red color." 

" Fatima's manner is modest, gentle, and indolent. 
Before her husband, she neither lifts her eyes nor 
speaks, and hardly moves without permission from 
the elder ladies of the harem. She presented us 
with perfumed sherbet, (a drink little different from 
lemonade,) fruit, and sweetmeats, chiefly made of 
ghee, poppy seeds, and sugar. Some of them were 
tolerably good, but it required all my politeness to 
swallow others. Prepared as I was to expect very 
little from Mussulman ladies, I could not help being 
shocked to find them so totally devoid of cultivation 
as I found them. They mutter their prayers, and 
some of them read the Koran, but not one in a 
thousand understands it. Still fewer can read their 
own language, or write at all ; and the only work 


they do is a little embroidery. They string beads, 
plait colored threads, sleep, quarrel, make pastry, 
and chew betel, in the same daily round. It is only 
at a death, a birth, or a marriage, that the monotony 
of their lives is interrupted. When we took leave, 
we were sprinkled with rose-water, and presented 
with flowers, and betel nut wrapped in the leaves of 
an aromatic plant." 

Yet where talent exists it has sometimes found 
means to manifest itself, even within the circum- 
scribed limits of the harem. 

Many beautiful designs for Cashmere shawls, em- 
broidery, and printed cottons, have been designed by 
these secluded women. Mherul-Nisa, afterward favo- 
rite sultana of Jehangire, emperor of Hindostan, being 
shut up with other slaves in a mean apartment of the 
seraglio, exerted her ingenuity to increase her scanty 
support. She embroidered splendid tapestry, painted 
silks with exquisite skill, and invented a variety of 
fanciful ornaments. These being extensively bought, 
and much admired in the city of Delhi, excited the 
emperor's curiosity. He paid her a visit ; and from 
that moment she never lost the extraordinary influ- 
ence which she suddenly acquired over him. She 
Decame his favorite wife, under the title of Noor 
Jehan, signifying the light of the world ; her rela- 
tions were placed in the principal employments of 
the empire, ranked with princes of the blood, and 
admitted to the private apartments of the seraglio ; 
her name was stamped on the coin with that of the 
emperor; and the most expensive pageants, consisting 


of music, fireworks, and illuminations, were con- 
tinually kept up to please her. 

The discovery of that exquisite perfume called 
attar of roses is attributed to Noor Jehan. She had 
not only baths, but whole canals, filled with rose- 
water, that she might enjoy its fragrance. One fine 
morning, walking with the emperor along one of 
these canals, in his magnificent gardens at Cashmere, 
she observed a fine scum floating on the surface. 
She took up some of it, and perceived that it yielded 
a powerful odour. She caused the chemists to exa- 
mine it, and from it they produced the essence which 
has ever since commanded so high a price. Noor 
Jehan gave it the name of Atyr Jehangire, in honor 
of her husband, and introduced the use of it through- 
out Hindostan. 

Among the foreign nations settled in India are 
the Parsees, descendants from the ancient Persians, 
who, like them, worship fire and sun, not as God, 
but as his most perfect symbol. There are among 
them holy women, who keep a perpetual fire burning 
before their habitations, and are very strict in the ob- 
servance of religious rites ; these women are held in 
the highest veneration. 

The Parsees, like most other oriental women, are 
in the habit of bringing water on their heads from 
the rivers and wells. They are well shaped, and 
almost as fair as Europeans. They have large black 
eyes, and aquiline noses. They are married very 
young, but generally remain with their parents some 
time after the wedding. The Parsees are allowed to 


marry but one wife, and she must be of their own 

The Hindoos in general believe in witchcraft. If 
the crops are blighted, sickness prevails, or any unu- 
sual misfortunes occur, they write the names of all 
the women in the village on branches of the saul- 
tree, and let them remain in water four hours and a 
half ; if any branch withers, the person whose name 
is on it is decided to be a witch. Other supersti- 
tious ordeals are likewise resorted to, and certain 
forms of investigation are gone through with, which 
not unfrequently end in the death of the accused. 

They believe in the existence of demons, and use 
various exorcisms to expel them from those who are 
possessed. Women are almost always the persons in 
whom these evil spirits are supposed to have fixed 
their residence. 

The Hindoos people the stars, the air, the woods, 
and the ocean with deities ; among which the god- 
desses are about as numerous as the gods. The two 
most conspicuous are Saraswadi, goddess of litera- 
ture and the arts, and Parvati, goddess of time and 
of enchantments ; the latter, like Venus, was born 
of the foam of the sea, and is the mother of Love. 
The Hindoo Cupid is called Camdeo, or Manmadin. 
His bow is of sugar-cane, his arrows made of flow- 
ers, and pointed with honey-comb. He is usually 
represented riding on a parrot, and is particularly 
Worshipped by women desirous to obtain faithful 
lovers and good husbands. 

English residents are numerous in Hindostan, 


tvhere they preserve their national castoms, slightly 
varied by climate and surrounding circumstances, 
India has been a great marriage-market, on account 
of the emigration of young enterprising Englishmen 
without a corresponding number of women. Faded 
belles, and destitute female orphans, were sure of 
finding husbands in India. Some persons actually 
undertook to import women to the British settle- 
ments, in order to sell them to rich Europeans, or 
nabobs, who would give a good price for them. How 
the importers acquired a right thus to dispose of 
them is not mentioned ; it is probable that the women 
themselves, from extreme poverty, or some other 
cause, consented to become articles of speculation 
upon consideration of receiving a certain remunera- 
tion. In September, 1818, the following advertise- 
ment appeared in the Calcutta Advertiser : " Females 
raffled for. Be it known that six fair pretty young 
ladies, with two sweet engaging children, lately im- 
ported from Europe, having the roses of health 
blooming on their cheeks, and joy sparkling in their 
eyes, possessing amiable tempers, and highly accom* 
plished, whom the most indifferent cannot behold 
without rapture, are to be raffled for next door to 
the British Gallery, Twelve tickets at twelve rupees 
each ; the highest of the three doubtless takes the 
most fascinating.' ' 

The wives of respectable Hindoos are very rarely 
seen in the street with their husbands, unless they 
are going a journey. When they see an English- 
woman walk arm-in-arm with her husband, they are? 


exceedingly shocked, and exclaim, " Oh ! ah ! do you 
see this ? They take their wives by the hand and 
lead them about, showing them to other English. 
These people have no shame." 

The inhabitants of Thibet are marked by a Chi- 
nese cast of countenance ; small black eyes, with 
long pointed corners, with eyelashes and eyebrows 
extremely thin. Ladies of rank extend the corner 
of the eyelids towards the temples as far as possible, 
by artificial means. They are fond of ornaments, 
and wear a profusion of coral and amber necklaces, 
to which are suspended images of their gods, forms 
of prayer, or sentences from their sacred writings. 
The most wealthy wear chaplets of large gems, such 
as rubies, lapis-lazuli, &c. ; and their black hair is, 
on state occasions, almost entirely concealed by heaps 
of pearl, emeralds, and coral. 

Matrimony is rather dishonorable in Thibet. A 
marriage contract forms an almost insuperable ob- 
stacle to the attainment of political rank or influence. 
Hence ambitious parents are desirous of placing 
their sons in the monasteries, where no woman is 
allowed to enter, and where a vow of perpetual ce- 
libacy is taken. Every family consisting of more 
than four boys is obliged to devote one of them to 
this recluse life. 

There are likewise in Thibet female devotees, who, 
like nuns, devote themselves entirely to celibacy and 
the duties of religion. They do not use a rosary to 
facilitate their prayers ; but, instead of this, they 


have a painted barrel, with gilt letters on it, placed 
upright in a case, which has an opening to admit 
the hand. It revolves upon an axis, and as they 
twirl it round, they repeat certain appointed words. 
The Thibetian customs with regard to marriage 
are very extraordinary. One woman is the wife of 
a whole family of brothers, be they ever so numerous. 
This custom is not confined to the lower ranks, but 
prevails in the most opulent families. The oldest 
brother has the right of choice. The courtship is 
very brief, and the marriage quite unceremonious. 
If the parents of the damsel approve his request, 
they carry their daughter to his house, where the re- 
lations meet and carouse for three days, with music 
and dancing. The priests, who are bound to shun 
the sight of women, have no share in the scene. 
Mutual consent is the only bond of union. The 
engagement thus formed cannot be dissolved, unless 
both the parties consent to a separation ; and even 
where this is the case, they are never after at liberty 
to form a new connection. These women, who are 
said to be very jealous of their husbands, enjoy a 
degree of freedom and consideration unknown to the 
Hindoos. They are the acknowledged mistresses 
of their family, have liberty to go where they please, 
and are generally well supported by the joint earnings 
of their numerous partners. When captain Turner 
was at Teshoo Loomboo, he was acquainted with 
five brothers, who all lived together in the utmost 
harmony and affection, with one wife among them 
all. The first-born child belongs to the oldest brother* 
the second to the next of age, and so on 


Instances of infidelity are said to be rare. In 
such cases, a man is condemned to pay a pecuniary 
fine ; a woman receives corporeal punishment. Pub- 
lic opinion is said not to be very fastidious concern- 
ing the character of unmarried females. 

In Thibet, the exchange of scarfs accompanies 
almost all the courtesies of life. When a visit is 
paid, scarfs are exchanged ; and every letter is ac- 
companied with a scarf, however distant may be its 
place of destination. White and red are in use ; but 
the former is considered more genteel, and is re- 
spectful in proportion to its fineness. These scarfs 
are soft, thin, glossy, and of dazzling whiteness. 
They are woven with damask figures, and usually 
have some sacred motto near the fringe at the ends. 

Women of the laboring classes are inured to a 
greal deal of toil. They plant, weed, reap, and 
thresh grain, and are exposed to the roughest weath- 
er, while their indolent husbands are perhaps living 
at their ease. 

The Birmans in their features resemble the Chi- 
nese. The women, especially those belonging to the 
northern districts, are fairer than the Hindoos, but 
less delicately formed, being generally inclined to 
corpulence. Their hair is black, coarse, and long. 
Both sexes color the teeth, the eyelashes, and the 
edges of their eyelids, with black. When women are 
in full dress, they stain their nails and the palms of 
their hands red, and strew their faces and bosoms 
with powder of sandal-wood, or of a bark called 


The hair is usually tied at the top of the head, 
and the fillet worn by people of rank is embroidered, 
and adorned with jewels. A long piece of silk or 
cloth is fastened round the waist, and falls to the 
feet, sometimes trailing on the ground. The upper 
part of the person is covered by a loose jacket, with 
long tight sleeves ; but the lower garment being 
open, it is impossible to walk without exposing the 
limbs, in a manner that would be regarded as very 
indelicate by Europeans. Wealthy women wear 
shoes, that turn up with a pointed toe ; the peasantry 
go barefoot. Girls are taught at an early age to 
invert their arms, so that the protruding joint of the 
elbow comes inside, and gives the arm the appearance 
of being broken. 

The Birmans have less personal cleanliness than 
the Hindoos, who, though they seldom wash their 
garments, consider frequent bathing a religious duty. 
Though separated from the Hindoos only by a nar- 
row range of mountains, they are strikingly unlike 
them in character. The Birmans are lively, active, 
and impatient. Their wives and daughters are al- 
lowed the same degree of freedom in social inter- 
course with men, as prevails in European society. 
Marriage is a purely civil contract, over which the 
priesthood have no jurisdiction. The law allows but 
one wife ; but the wealthy usually keep a number 
of mistresses, who reside under the same roof with 
the wife, and are subject to her control. When she 
goes abroad, they attend her, bearing her betel-box, 
fan, &c. ; and when the husband dies, they become 


the widow's property, unless he has specifically 
emancipated them. 

The formalities of courtship and marriage are 
similar to those of India. If the first private propo- 
sal he well received by the damsel and her parents, 
the relatives meet to agree concerning, her dowry ; 
the bridegroom sends a present of dresses and jewels, 
according to his wealth; the parents of the bride 
give a feast, and written contracts are signed ; the 
new-married couple eat out of the same dish; the 
bridegroom presents the bride with some pickled tea, 
she returns the compliment, and thus ends the cere- 

Divorces may be obtained under peculiar circum- 
stances, but they are attended with a good deal of 
expense. The women are generally virtuous ; for 
their constant occupation leaves little leisure for 
the mind to become corrupted. Ladies of the highest 
rank are busy at the labors of the loom. When the 
British envoy made a formal visit to the queen's 
mother, he found her maidens in the gallery of the 
palace, weaving with the utmost activity. Nearly 
all the cotton and silk used in the Birman empire is 
woven at home by the women. Indeed, they take 
an active share in the general superintendence both 
of out-door and in-door transactions. When the 
governor of Maindu had a large ship on the stocks, 
his wife was seen to cross the river every morning 
in her husband's barge, attended by female servants; 
she took her seat on the timbers, and superintended 
the workmen for hours ; and she seldom failed to 


come again in the evening, to see that the day's task 
had been completed. The Englishmen, who ob- 
served her, said her husband never accompanied 
her, and she appeared to have no need of his assis 

But notwithstanding the Birmese ladies enjoy so 
much more of freedom and confidence than their 
neighbors, they share something of the degradation 
imposed upon all Asiatic women. Their evidence is 
not deemed equal to that of a man, and they are not 
allowed to ascend the steps of a court of justice, but 
are obliged to give their testimony outside of the 
building. A man who cannot pay his debts is liable 
to be sold, with his wife and children ; hence inno- 
cent, industrious women not unfrequently suffer most 
cruelly for the vices or indolence of their husbands. 
Sometimes when criminals are condemned to death, 
the helpless wife and children share his punishment. 
When driven by poverty, the lower class of Birmans 
do not hesitate to sell their wives and daughters to fo- 
reign residents. Women are not considered as disho- 
nored by these circumstances, and seem easily to re- 
sign themselves to their lot. They are generally very 
faithful to their new owners, and render themselves 
useful by keeping accounts, and aiding in the trans- 
action of business. But foreigners are never allowed 
to carry these women or their children out of the 
country. If a vessel were discovered with a Birmese 
female on board, it would never again be allowed to 
enter any of their ports. 

Orders of monks are established in the Birman 


empire, and formerly there were establishments of 
nuns ; but, for political reasons, a law was passed 
forbidding any woman to seclude herself from society 
by a religious vow. 

Female mourners are hired to chant dirges at fu- 
nerals. Dancing and singing girls are introduced at 
entertainments, and some of them are said to be ex- 
tremely graceful. In the month of April they cele- 
brate a merry festival, by throwing as much water as 
they please upon whomsoever they meet ; but in 
this, as in all their amusements, the Birmans are 
scrupulously decorous toward women. They may 
throw water upon any girl who is the first aggres- 
sor, but they must not lay hands upon her ; neither 
are they allowed to molest any female, who does not 
choose to join in the merriment of the season. 

The women of the Arracan mountains tattoo their 
faces all over in segments of circles, which give them 
a hideous appearance. These half savage tribes con- 
sider a flat forehead the perfection of beauty, and 
in order to produce it, they lay a heavy plate of lead 
upon the brow of infants. The inhabitants of Pegu 
are passionately addicted to tattooing. 

The inhabitants of Tonquin and Cochin China, 
though similar to the Chinese in features, written 
language, and religious ceremonies, are very unlike 
them in character, and in some of their customs. 
The Cochin Chinese are lively, talkative, and fami- 
liar ; and they suffer their women to be quite as gay 
and unrestrained as themselves. The middling and 


lower classes of women are indeed condemned to la- 
borious occupations. They stand in the water from 
morning till night, transplanting rice ; they till the 
ground ; assist in repairing the mud cottages ; ma- 
nufacture coarse earthen-ware ; manage boats ; carry 
produce to market ; gather the cotton, spin, weave, 
and color it ; and then make it into garments for 
themselves and families. Their endurance of hard- 
ship is so remarkable, that the Cochin Chinese pro- 
verb says : " A woman has nine lives, and bears a 
great deal of killing." 

The law makes no restriction as to the number of 
wives ; but the first espoused takes precedence of the 
others. If married parties choose to separate, they 
break one of their copper coins, or a pair of chop- 
sticks, in the presence of witnesses, and the union is 
dissolved ; but the husband must restore all the pro- 
perty his wife possessed before marriage. 

Men consider their wives as an inferior race, and 
sell them when they please. They are shamefully 
indifferent about their moral character, if they can 
obtain money by their vices. Women living thus 
without the encouragement or restraint of public 
opinion, and without the sweet reward of domestic 
esteem and confidence, are generally vicious, wher- 
ever there is the least temptation to be so. There 
are, however, severe laws, which are enforced when 
husbands think proper to appeal to them. Some- 
times an unfaithful wife is trampled to death by ele- 
phants, and sometimes both of the offending parties 
are tied together and thrown into the river. The 


women are dark and coarse featured, with blackened 
teeth, and small pretensions to beauty ; but there is 
something pleasing in their perpetual cheerfulness 
and lively good-nature. They take great pride in 
long hair, considering the reverse as a token of de- 
generacy, and a mark of vulgarity. 

The Cochin Chinese have dramatic performances, 
in which female actors are introduced. Their voices, 
when singing, are said to be shrill and warbling, and 
their dancing full of graceful gestures and attitudes. 

Men and women of the common class dress nearly 
alike. Both wear a brown or blue frock, with black 
nankeen trowsers, made very wide. They have 
neither stockings nor shoes. The women wear their 
long hair sometimes twisted on the top of the head, 
and sometimes hanging in loose flowing tresses. To 
shield them from the sun they have broad hats, like 
an inverted saucer, woven with the fibres of bamboo, 
and made impervious to water by means of a fine 
varnish. These hats are fastened under the chin by 
a slender wooden bow, like the handle of a pail ; the 
rich have it made of ivory, ebony, silver, or gold. 
The higher classes dress very much like the wealthy 
Chinese. Both ladies and gentlemen, when they go 
abroad, have attendants to carry their fans, and a 
box made of fragrant wood, often inlaid with gold 
and silver, to contain their areca, betel, &c. Gar- 
ments are seldom changed till they begin to fall in 
pieces, and their habits are in general so uncleanly 
that a near approach to them is not pleasant. 


The Siamese are a tawny people, with short black 
hair, which both sexes cut quite short. They have 
feces broad in the middle, and narrowing toward 
the forehead and the chin. Their ears are natu- 
rally large ; and, like many other nations in the tor- 
rid zone, they weigh them down with heavy orna- 
ments, so that one might thrust several fingers 
through the distended apertures. 

Long nails, particularly on the right hand, are 
considered a mark of gentility. They often attain a 
growth of several inches ; and when women wish to 
be particularly elegant, they wear artificial ones four 
inches long. 

The Siamese bathe very frequently, and anoint 
themselves with perfumes. The interior of their 
houses is likewise very neat. They seldom wear 
any ornament about the head, except ear-rings ; and 
none but the young wear bracelets. Their common 
clothing is very slight ; consisting merely of a large 
piece of calico, tied above the hips, and falling to the 

Women enjoy a considerable degree of freedom. 
When a young man sends his female friends to ask 
a damsel in marriage, her parents consult their 
daughter's inclination ; and if they approve the 
match, magicians are immediately called to cast 
nativities and consult the stars for omens. The 
lover pays two or three visits to his betrothed, 
bringing presents of fruit and betel. At the third 
visit, the relations sign contracts, and pay the dow- 
ry. A few days after, the priests sprinkle the younp 

VOL. L 10 


couple with consecrated water, and repeat prayers, 
The bride's parents keep up feasting, dancing, and 
music for several days ; and sometimes months 
elapse before the young people commence house- 
keeping for themselves. 

The Siamese laws allow of several wives, but the 
wealthy only avail themselves of this indulgence. 
Superior privileges are conferred on the first wife, 
and upon her children. The children of the others 
are not allowed to use the familiar appellation of 
" father," but are required to say, " Mr. father."" 
The first wife may be divorced, but cannot be sold, 
like the others. In case of divorce, she may claim 
the first, third, fifth child, and so on, through the 
odd numbers. The husband has a right to all the 
even numbers ; of course, the mother sometimes has 
a larger share than the father. 

All the property left by a husband belongs to the 
first wife. She likewise inherits his authority ; hut 
she cannot sell the even-number children, who in 
case of division would have belonged to their father. 

The poorer classes work on the land, and transact 
Business for their husbands, during the half of each 
year, which they are obliged to spend in the service 
of a despotic prince. They take great care of their 
children, especially of their daughters, and are gene- 
rally very virtuous and modest. The Siamese, un- 
like their neighbors of Cochin China, are very scru- 
pulous concerning the character of their women, 
with which they conceive their own honor to be 
intimately connected. Their laws are verv severe. 


An unfaithful wife is exposed alive to tigers, or sold 
as a slave. 

These people have a singular religious ceremony, 
which reminds one of the Jewish scape-goat. An 
infamous woman is carried about on a barrow, ac- 
companied with trumpets and hautboys. Every one 
curses her, and pelts her with dirt. She is then car- 
ried out of the town, left among bushes and thorns, 
and forbidden ever to return to the city. They have 
a superstition that this ceremony will avert all 
threatened evils from them to her. 

The Siamese priests are not allowed to marry, on 
pain of being burnt to death. 

There are female convents in Siam, but no woman 
is allowed to take the vow before she is fifty years 
old. When a man is condemned for any crime, his 
innocent family suffer with him; and wives and 
children are not unfrequently gambled away at 
games of chance. The women marry very young. 
It is a common thing to see wives and mothers of 
twelve years old. 

Like other nations in the vicinity, they smoke a 
good deal, and universally color their teeth black. 

The Malays are a proud and revengeful people, 
excessively jealous of their women. The lower 
classes of females are, however, allowed to go about 
in public, and transact various kinds of business, 
with a hardihood that braves all manner of fatigue 
and exposure. The women, of course, imbibe some- 
thing of the fierce character of the men. No love 


can hope to find favor in their eyes, until he can pro^ 
duce a number of human skulls, which he has severed 
from the bodies. When attacked by enemies, they 
fight by the side of their husbands and brothers, with 
a fiery courage amounting to desperation. 

Their manner of living is almost as simple and 
rude as that of savages. The women are generally 
well shaped, with tawny complexions, oval faces, 
expressive eyes, large mouths with thin lips, and 
teeth blackened by chewing betel. They are fond 
of gallantry, dress, and jewels. The higher class* 
wear a muslin garment, descending to the feet, and 
fastened with a girdle at the waist; and to this they 
add a short jacket. They frequently have ear-rings,, 
bracelets, and gold chains, and fasten their long 
shining black hair at the top of the head with a gold 
pin. The common people of both sexes dress almost 
exactly alike ; their clothing consisting merely of a 
cloth wrapped about the waist, fastened by a belt, in 
which they carry their daggers. 

The children in Malacca, and the neighboring na~ 
tions, universally go without clothing. 

The Chinese women have broad unmeaning faces % 
small, lively eyes, obliquely placed, with eyelids 
rounding into each other at the corners, not forming 
an angle, as in Europeans ; their hair is black ; lips 
rather thick and rosy ; and their complexion is a 
yellowish brown ; excepting some inhabitants of the 
northern provinces, who are fairer. They generally 
paint their faces so as to give a strong carnation tint 


to the whole surface. A foot unnaturally small is 
considered a great beauty. In order to attain this, 
the higher classes bind tight bandages round the feet 
of female infants, so that none but the great toe is 
suffered to retain its natural position. This com- 
pression is continued until the foot ceases to grow. 
It is then a misshapen little stump, four or five inches 
long, with all the smaller toes adhering firmly to the 
sole. The growth thus cruelly checked in its pro- 
per place, increases the ankle to such a clumsy size, 
that it almost entirely conceals the foot. When the 
ladies attempt to walk, they seem to be moving on 
stumps, and hobble along in the most awkward man- 
ner imaginable. Their little shoes are as fine as tin- 
sel and embroidery can make them. According to 
Chinese history, this custom originated several cen- 
turies ago, when a numerous body of women combin- 
ed together to overthrow the government ; and to 
prevent the recurrence of a similar event it was or- 
dained that female infants should wear wooden shoes, 
so small as to cramp their feet and render them use- 
less. Some writers have supposed that this singular 
practice originated in the jealousy of Chinese hus- 
bands, who contrived this method to keep their wives 
at home ; but this seems very improbable. The 
Persians, who seclude their women with much great- 
er rigor than the Chinese, do not think it necessary 
to disable their feet ; nor would such a precaution 
be a safeguard against intrigues. The reason of 
this, as well as other customs equally strange, may 
probably be found in the caprice of fashion ; and 


while unnaturally small feet are considered by Chi- 
nese men as a charming indication of elegant help- 
lessness, the Chinese women will no doubt endure 
any degree of suffering to attain the enviable dis- 

Chinese hands are exceedingly small. The ladies 
keep them concealed by long wide cuffs, and consi- 
der it immodest to let them appear, even in presence 
of male relations. Both sexes, among the wealthy, 
suffer the finger nails to grow to an immense length, 
to show that they perform no labor. Sometimes 
they are said to be from eight to twelve inches long* 
In order to preserve them from being broken, they 
are obliged to keep them in light bamboo cases. 
The ladies generally comb their hair back from the 
face, and pluck out their eyebrows, so as to leave 
only a very thin arch. They wear their robes so 
long as to conceal the person from the throat to the 
toes. The garments of the higher classes are made 
of the richest materials, but are clumsy and inele- 
gant. The usual colors are red, blue, and green. 
Though the Chinese ladies have no opportunity to 
rival each other in the conquest of hearts, they are 
nevertheless very fond of ornaments, especially about 
the head. Bunches of silver or gilt flowers are al- 
ways interspersed among their ringlets, in greater or 
less profusion ; and sometimes they wear the fong~ 
koang or Chinese phoenix, made of silver gilt, and so 
arranged as to move with the slightest motion of 
the wearer. The spreading tail forms a glittering 


aigrette on the middle of the head, and the wings 
wave over the front. 

The Chinese trace the institution of marriage as 
far back as their first sovereign, Fo-Hi, supposed to 
be coeval with Noah. The law permits but one 
wife ; but though the emperor only can legally keep 
several mistresses, custom sanctions the practice, and 
it generally prevails among all who can afford it. 
These women are generally purchased as slaves, and 
the wife has control over them and their children ; 
but the latter have a right to a share of the paternal 
inheritance. These female slaves call the lawful 
wife " mother," and at her death are obliged to ob- 
serve the same ceremonies of mourning prescribed 
for a real parent. 

The emperor never marries a foreign princess. 
When he ascends the throne, people of the highest 
rank present their youngest and handsomest daugh- 
ters to him, that he may choose a wife among them. 
The empress, who is called Hoang-heou> has pecu- 
liar prerogatives ; and her family acquire great credit 
and influence. Next to the empress in rank are two 
queens with their numerous attendants ; and the 
third rank consists of six queens and their attend- 
ants. The children of all these women are consider- 
ed a part of the imperial family. The emperor has 
arbitrary power to name his successor, either in his 
family or out of it ; but he generally chooses one of 
the sons of the empress. 

The emperor's daughters never succeed to the 
throne. They are usually married to Tartar princes, 


and mandarins of high rank, who always consider 
such an alliance a mark of distinction. The great 
men of the Celestial Empire keep their women most 
carefully concealed from all eyes but their own. If 
there is occasion to remove them from one place of 
residence to another, they are conveyed in close car- 
riages, with gauze drawn over the small windows, 
and a eunuch to guard them on each side. On state 
occasions, they are sometimes admitted to the thea- 
tre, where they are concealed behind a screen of 
close lattice-work. The scenes represented on the 
Chinese stage are said to be so indecent and disgust- 
ing, that European spectators are absolutely driven 
away. They have no actresses. Female characters 
are performed by beardless young men, in the cos- 
tume of women. The ladies amuse themselves with 
embroidery, music, dancing, puppet-shows, and paint- 
ing birds, flowers, and insects, on rice-paper, or thin 
gauze. Some of the emperors, willing to gratify 
the curiosity of their wives, built within the parks 
of their palaces miniature towns, to represent, on a 
small scale, the most remarkable objects in Pekin. 
The gardens belonging to the imperial palaces are 
exceedingly picturesque and beautiful. Here the 
princes spend many tranquil hours, while their wives 
play on musical instruments, and their children fro- 
lic around them. 

Chinese education consists principally in learning 
certain ceremonials of behavior ; such as what kind 
of salutation to make to a superior, what to an infe- 
rior, how to give a present, and how to receive one. 


When an emperor dies, his widows cannot marry 
again. They are removed to a palace peculiarly ap- 
propriated to their use, and never again allowed to 
leave it. It was formerly customary to immolate a 
number of slaves on the grave of an emperor, or 
prince ; but this has given place to the harmless cus- 
tom of burning images of tinfoil, cut in the human 

A bridegroom knows nothing of the character 
or person of his intended wife, except what he ga- 
thers from the report of some female relative, or 
confidant, who undertakes to arrange the marriage, 
and determine the sum that shall be paid for the 
bride. Very severe laws are made to prevent decep- 
tion and fraud in these transactions. On the day 
appointed for the wedding, the damsel is placed in a 
close palanquin, the key of which is sent to the 
bridegroom, by the hands of some trusty domestic. 
Her relations and friends, accompanied by squalling 
music, escort her to his house ; at the gate of which 
he stands in full dress, ready to receive her. He 
eagerly opens the palanquin and examines his bar- 
gain. If he is pleased, she enters his dwelling, and 
the marriage is celebrated with feasting and rejoic- 
ing ; the men and women being all the time in sepa- 
rate apartments. If the bridegroom is dissatisfied, he 
shuts the palanquin, and sends the woman back to 
her relations ; but when this happens, he must pay 
another sum of money equal to the price he first 
gave for her. A woman who unites beauty with ac- 
complishments brings from four to seven hundred 
louis d'ors ; some sell for less than one hundred, 


The apartments of the women are separated from 
those of the men by a wall, at which a guard is sta- 
tioned. The wife is never allowed to eat with her 
husband ; she cannot quit her apartments without 
permission ; and he does not enter hers without first 
asking leave. Brothers are entirely separated from 
their sisters at the age of nine or ten years. 

Divorces are allowed in cases of criminality, mu- 
tual dislike, jealousy, incompatibility of temper, or 
too much loquacity on the part of the wife. 

The Chinese character is grave, ceremonious, and 
taciturn. It is said that women are in the habit 
of answering concisely, and seldom speak unless 
spoken to ; nevertheless the Chinese proverb declares, 
" What women have lost in their feet they have 
gained in their tongues." If female loquacity be a 
ground for divorce, it may render the marriage con- 
tract very precarious, even in China. A husband can 
neither put away his wife, nor sell her, until a divorce 
is legally obtained. If she leaves him, he may im- 
mediately commence an action at law, by the sen- 
tence of which she becomes his slave, and he is at 
liberty to sell her to whom he pleases. If he leaves 
her for three years, she may, by permission of the 
mandarins, marry again ; but if she were to antici- 
pate their consent, she would be liable to very severe 

A husband has always a right to sell an unfaith- 
ful wife for a slave. Women do not inherit proper- 
ty, but it may be left to them by will. 

Next to submission, industry is inculcated as the 


greatest of female virtues. The following are ex- 
tracts from a Chinese ballad : " Employment is the 
guardian of female innocence ; do not allow women 
time to be idle ; let them be the first dressed, and 
the last undressed, all the year round." 

" No in-door household work is repugnant to a 
modest and sensible woman. The shuttle and the 
needle are only the occupation of her leisure ; the 
neatness of her house is the work of her cares ; and 
it is her glory either to nurse the sick, or prepare a 

" The pearls and precious stones, the silk and gold 
with which a coquette so studiously bedecks herself, 
are a transparent varnish which makes all her de- 
fects the more apparent." 

It seems difficult to imagine such a thing as co- 
quetry, where there are no opportunities for display. 
However, the Chinese must be more stupid than wo- 
men in general, if they are beautiful and cannot con- 
trive some means to let the world know it. Travel- 
lers say they have sometimes seen pretty Chinese 
girls sitting smoking pipes at the doors, but that 
they always ran away at their approach. Per* 
haps when they see a young man of their own na» 
tion and rank, they take time to knock the ashes 
from their pipes before they run. 

Most of the houses in cities have terrace roofs, on 
which flowers and shrubs are planted ; and these 
form a favorite promenade for the ladies. The Chi- 
nese being a sedentary people, their florists, fruit 
dealers, &c. are obliged to walk about the streets 


crying their goods ; mantuamakers, carrying a basket 
with the implements of their trade, march round in 
search of customers, which are not very numerous in 
a land where the fashions never change ; fortune- 
tellers, mountebanks, and jugglers, squeaking on a 
wretched flute, likewise go from house to house, and 
are beckoned to call where their services are required. 

The wealthy make great rejoicings at the birth of 
a child, particularly if it be a son. They boil great 
quantities of eggs hard, prepare rice after a peculiar 
fashion, and send these, with dainties of various 
kinds, to their relatives and friends. On the third 
day the child is washed, and new feasts are given. 
Hundreds of eggs, called third-day eggs, are roasted 
and painted all manner of colors. Relations and 
friends in their turn present the same kind of eggs, 
with all sorts of pastry and sweetmeats. 

The oldest Chinese writers attribute the first in- 
vention of spinning to the wife of their emperor Yao, 
and the discovery of silk to one of the wives of their 
emperor Hoang-Ti. From that time, the empresses 
have been in the habit of breeding, rearing, and feed- 
ing silkworms, reeling the cocoons, and working the 
silk. Until the last dynasty, there was a mulberry 
grove in the gardens of the palace. Every year, the 
empress, accompanied by the queens and the other 
principal ladies of the court, went to this grove with 
great solemnity and gathered leaves from the branch- 
es, which her attendants lowered within her reach. 
The finest pieces of silk, which were made under her 
own inspection, and at which she often worked, 


Were destined for the ceremony of the great sacrifice 
to Chang-TL 

In the silk establishments the care of the insects* 
is intrusted to an intelligent woman called Tsam~ 
Mou, or Mother of the Worms* She is not allowed 
to perform the duties of her office, unless she has 
just bathed, and put on perfectly clean clothes. She 
must not have eaten recently, or touched wild en- 
dive, the smell of which is considered injurious to 
the young worms. She wears thin light robes, that 
she may be able to judge of the heat of the room ; 
for the Chinese do not use thermometers in these 
establishments. The indifference with which the 
silk reelers plunge their hands into boiling water, in 
order to recover the cocoon when the thread breaks, 
is truly astonishing. Bowls of cold water are kept 
near, to soothe the pain. The skin on the hands of 
these women becomes very thick and tough. 

When the Chinese women are engaged in embroi- 
dery, or any other sedentary employment, they are 
usually seated on large china jars instead of chairs, 
Their mirrors are of highly polished copper, which 
they prefer to glass. 

It is said that the leaves of the best kind of tea 
are rolled separately by the fingers of a woman ap- 
pointed to the business. Females of the lower 
classes endure as much labor and fatigue as the men, 
A wife sometimes drags the plough in rice fields^ 
with an infant tied upon her back, while her husband 
performs the less arduous task of holding the plough. 

No Chinese female is allowed to leave the celestial 


empire, nor is any foreign woman permitted to pass 
the frontiers. A European woman, who once en- 
deavored to enter Pekin in disguise, was discovered, 
and came very near losing her life. In two or three 
instances Chinese women have escaped secretly, and 
been exhibited as great curiosities in Europe and 
America; but their punishment would be very se- 
vere, should they again come under the laws of Chi- 
na. These strict regulations are doubtless made to 
prevent the introduction of new fashions, and demo- 
cratic ideas, to disturb the dead calm that prevails 
in a country where the individuals of each class are 
entirely subservient to the one above it, and where 
women of all classes are allowed a very small share 
of personal freedom. 

The custom of exposing infants, principally daugh- 
ters, prevails in China, as well as in some parts of 
Hindostan. Every morning five carts drawn by buf- 
faloes traverse the streets of Pekin to pick up babes, 
whom parents are either unable or unwilling to sup- 
port, as well as those whose lifeless bodies are thus 
exposed to avoid the great expenses attending burial. 
The dead infants are conveyed to a public cemetery, 
and the living are placed in a charitable asylum. 
As the streets of Chinese cities swarm with hungry 
dogs and swine, the fate of these poor innocents is 
sometimes horrible. Catholic and Mohammedan 
missionaries station themselves at the gate of the 
cemetery, to save such as appear to have any re- 
mains of life. Sailors and fishermen often put their 
new-born infants into gourds and toss them into the 


Water, where they perish, unless some kind hand is 
stretched forth to save them. The children thus 
cruelly exposed are usually girls, because they are 
less likely to be profitable to poor parents than boys, 
and it is more difficult to bring them up. 

It is supposed that as many as twenty or thirty 
thousand infants are annually exposed in the Chinese 
empire. These scenes principally occur in cities, 
and are more frequent in seasons of scarcity. 

The Chinese celebrate the commencement of the 
year with great festivities. The tribunals and shops 
are closed, the posts stopped, and all business, public 
and private, suspended ; presents are given, children 
formally pay respects to their parents ; mandarins 
do the same to their superior officers, and servants 
to their masters. This is called " taking leave of 
the old year." In the evening, all the family par- 
take of a great feast, to which no stranger is admit- 
ted ; but the next day they are more social, and 
spend the whole time in feasting and amusements. 
The celebration is concluded by brilliant illumina- 
tions in the evening. 

Chinese children are not allowed to make the 
remotest allusion to the infirmities of old age, in the 
presence of their father or mother. If their father 
be in mourning for any relative, they must abstain 
from playing on instruments ; and they must give 
up music, all kinds of entertainments, and even 
bright-colored dresses, if their father or mother is ill* 

White is the mourning color among the Chinese. 
A son cannot wear it while his parents are alive, but 


he can wear no other for three years after theif 
death ; and even after this period of mourning is 
ended, his garments must ever be of one color. 

The emperor Kien-Long having fallen in love with 
a beautiful young girl at Sanchou-Fou, his empress 
hung herself. One of her sons was very much em- 
barrassed to know what course to pursue. To go 
into mourning might seem like an insult to his fa- 
ther ; and to omit it would be disrespectful to the 
memory of his mother. By the advice of his tutor, 
he appeared with a full dress over a suit of mourn- 
ing. This enraged the emperor so much, that he 
gave his son a violent kick, which occasioned his 
death a few days after. 

Every morning, at daybreak, a Chinese son is re- 
quired to present his father and mother with water 
to wash their hands, and stand ready to perform any 
trifling services they may require. Filial obedience 
is carried to such an extreme, that a son is bound to 
divorce his wife if she be displeasing to his parents. 
Even the emperor himself is not exonerated from 
these obligations. When the mother of Kien-Long 
died, all the mandarins were ordered to go into 
mourning for seventeen days, and to abstain from all 
amusements. No person of any rank was allowed 
to shave for the space of one hundred days, or to 
partake of any entertainment. For one month, peo- 
ple were not permitted to marry ; and in the most 
crowded streets all classes refrained from speaking, 
except in whispers. The will of that princess is a 
curious document : 


" Though unworthy, high Heaven has bestowed 
upon me its choicest favors. I received from the 
blessed ancestors of my husband the most valuable 
of all gifts, when I brought into the world a son 
destined to succeed him. The emperor, always full 
of tenderness and respect for his mother, has omitted 
nothing that lay in his power to render my life hap- 
py. He never failed to come every morning and 
evening either to salute me, or to see me eat. He 
was constantly contriving means to gratify my 
heart. He danced in my presence, recited the poems 
he composed, showed me paintings which no hand 
but his own had touched, and decorated my apart- 
ments with them himself. All these attentions pe- 
netrated to the bottom of my soul. I forgot my 
age, and my old frame was filled with new vigor.' ' 

At the close of the long and magnificent proces- 
sion which followed this empress to her grave, were 
pages bearing her mirrors, boxes, jewels, fans, &c. ; 
and last of all the walking stick on which she had 
leaned in her old age, was carried along with peculiar 

The Chinese books are full of anecdotes of filial 
piety. " The mother of Ouang-Ouei-Yuen had ever 
expressed great apprehensions of thunder, and when 
she saw it approaching always requested her son not 
to leave her. After her death, whenever he heard a 
storm coming on, he hastened to his mother's grave, 
and said softly, * I am here, mother.' " 

Another story is told of a young woman whose 
mother-in-law, being without teeth, could not tak§ 

VOL, I. 11 


food without great exertion. Her dutiful step-daugh- 
ter nursed her several years from her own breast 
often rising in the night to afford her nourishment. 

In the month of April, the Chinese visit the tombs 
of their parents, however distant, to pluck up the 
weeds, repeat certain ceremonies, and deposit wine 
and provisions. When the Tartars invaded China, 
they availed themselves of the filial piety of the peo- 
ple, and marched against them with their captive 
mothers ranged in front of the troops. In some 
cases, where this experiment was tried, the wo- 
men fell by their own hands, calling out to their 
sons to revenge the death of those who would not 
consent to be an obstacle in the way of their cou- 
rage. At this trying period the Chinese women, dis- 
guised as men, labored with the utmost zeal, carry- 
ing wood, stones, &c. to rebuild the fortifications. 

A widow of any. considerable rank seldom marries 
again. Those of high station esteem it a sacred 
duty to show this mark of veneration for the memory 
of a husband, even if they have been but a few days 
married, or even if the marriage contract had been 
settled at the time of his death. 

The poorer classes of widows are often sold for the 
benefit of their deceased husband's relations, who are 
desirous of regaining the money originally paid for 
them. The arrangement is often made without their 
knowledge, and in spite of their resistance. As soon 
as the bargain is concluded; the new proprietor sends 
a palanquin well guarded, and the widow is locked 
up in it, and sent to his house. If avaricious rela- 


tives force a woman to this step before the customary 
period of mourning expires, she can obtain redress 
by application to the mandarins. A widow who is 
averse to a second marriage, and has no one on whom 
she can rely to repay the original price, may avoid it 
by becoming a bonze or nun. Of these there are two 
orders in China. One have their heads shaved, and 
covered with a black cap, wear dark robes, and live 
together in communities, like convents \ the other 
class dress more elegantly, and are not confined to 
any particular place of abode. The female bonzes 
are not as numerous, or so much respected, as for- 
merly. In 1787, one of them, who pretended to 
perform miracles, and predict future events, gained 
such unbounded influence over the minds of women 
of rank and wealth, that her vanity and ostentation 
became excessive. She received homage on a kind 
of throne, and ventured to wear the light yellow 
robes appropriated to the imperial family. Until 
this period, Chinese women had been allowed to 
visit temples served by these priestesses ; but the 
enraged emperor, having put the ambitious bonze to 
death, forthwith issued the following decree : "All 
persons of the female sex, of whatever quality and 
condition, are forbidden upon any pretext whatsoever 
to enter a temple, or to quit their houses except in 
cases of absolute necessity. Fathers, husbands, 
brothers, sons, or relatives, are commanded to keep 
them at home, upon pain of being themselves se- 
verely punished. After this prohibition, any woman 
who shall enter a temple shall be apprehended and 

158 Chinese Women. 

imprisoned, till some one shall appear to claim her, 
and to undergo the punishment due to his negli- 
gence. •• 

By the despotic laws of China a man not only 
suffers for his own crimes, but it is often ordained 
that his wife, all his mistresses, his children, and his 
near relations, shall be put to death, or sold into 
slavery. Suicide is said to be more common with 
both sexes in China, than in any part of the world. 

The habits of this singular people are very un- 
cleanly. They seldom wash their garments, and do 
not, like most Asiatics, bathe frequently. It is said 
that the bandages round the women's little feet 
sometimes drop to pieces without ever having been 

Great numbers of people live continually in boats 
on the water. The children are tied to the raft with 
ropes, so that they can run about ; and sometimes 
their mothers fasten an empty gourd about their 
necks, to keep them above water, in case they fall 
overboard. Many persons born in these floating 
dwellings never quit them till they die. 

Some of the Chinese customs are much despised 
by their Tartar conquerors. The Tartar women, 
instead of cramping their feet, add to their natural 
length by shoes with a long curved toe. The Chi 
nese, in derision, call them Tartar junks, from the 
resemblance they bear to those vessels. These wo- 
men have a frank confident look, and appear freely 
in the streets, either walking, riding on horseback 
after the fashion of men, or carried by two bearers 
on a little open carriage supported by one wheel. 


Like the Chinese women, they cover their faces with 
paint, but have naturally a more delicate complexion. 
They are in general well formed. A small waist is 
regarded by them as a peculiar characteristic of 
beauty. Their hair is turned up all round, tied on 
the top of the head, after the Chinese fashion, and 
almost always adorned with flowers. The constant 
habit of smoking and chewing betel makes their 
teeth yellow. 

At the new and full moon Tartar women sacrifice 
to a household god, called the Spirit of the Door. 
Two lighted tapers are placed on a small altar, and 
leaves of gold and silver paper are burned in a pan 
of perfumes. This is done with the idea of warding 
off certain malignant influences, which might bring 
disasters on the dwelling. 

Many of the conquerors, who did not bring wives 
with them, married Chinese women, and their de- 
scendants are still called Tartars. It is said that 
when they conquered the province of Nankin, they 
made prisoners of all the women, whom they did not 
choose to appropriate to themselves. Old and young 
were tied up in sacks, and sold at the same price. A 
Chinese artisan, who had but ten shillings, went to 
market, with the rest, to try his luck. His money 
was exactly the price required ; so he seized a sack, 
slung it over his shoulders, and pushed through the 
crowd to examine his bargain. When he found he 
had bought an ugly old woman, he was so enraged 
that he was about to throw the unfortunate creature 
into the river. But she begged him to spare her 


life, assuring him that her sons would amply reward 
him ; and in fact it proved that he had drawn no 
inconsiderable prize in this odd lottery. 

In the mountainous districts of China is a singular 
tribe called the Miao-Tse. They live together in 
the utmost harmony, under the government of elders. 
The men and women dress almost exactly alike. 
The men wear ear-rings, and the women carry a 
sword. Both go barefoot, and climb the sharpest 
rocks with the swiftness of mountain goats. The 
women roll their hair round a board about a foot 
long and six inches broad, to which they fasten the 
hair with bees-wax, so as to form a sort of hat. This 
is very inconvenient when they wish to lie down. 
They comb it but three or four times a year, and are 
obliged to spend hours in melting the wax before the 
fire. One of these women defended a fort against 
Chinese troops, for more than two months after every 
other being but herself was killed. She contrived 
to fire several muskets in such a manner as to de- 
ceive them with regard to the strength of the garri- 
son ; and at every moment of leisure she collected 
heaps of large stones, to hurl down upon them from 
different places with her foot. 

The Coreans, though they in general observe the 
customs that prevail in the Chinese empire, do 
not cripple the feet of their women; and young 
people are allowed to marry according to their own 
inclinations, after having had free opportunities of 
becoming acquainted with each other. In this re- 
spect, custom imposes so little restraint, that the lady 


often resides at the house of her future father-in-law 
some time before her marriage. 

The laws of Corea do not allow a plurality of 
wives ; but sanction as many mistresses as a man 
can support, provided he keeps them out of the 
house. The husband can divorce his wife at plea- 
sure, and leave her the charge of maintaining his 
children. In case of unfaithfulness, he has a right 
to put her to death. The observance of the mar- 
riage vow is enforced by very severe laws, both with 
regard to the woman and her lover. 

The class of abandoned females is said to be very 
large in Chinese cities. 

Yang-Tcheou is famed for the beauty and accom- 
plishments of its women, many of whom are sold at 
a high price to the principal nobility in various parts 
of the empire. 

At Chinese funerals, as often as relations or friends 
come to look at the corpse, the women and children 
set up a dismal cry. 

In their pagodas the image of a woman and child, 
with rays encircling the head, is often worshipped 
under the name of " the Sacred Mother." It seems 
difficult to reconcile this circumstance with their 
early and strong aversion to the Catholic religion. 

In some of their temples there is another image of 
a woman, whose attributes seem to correspond with 
the Lucina of the ancient Romans. 

The women of Chinese Tartary assemble, to the 
number of ten or fifteen, who annually elect a direct* 


ress. An aged bonze or priest presides, and sings 
anthems in praise of their god Fo. These meetings 
continue seven days, during which they employ 
themselves in laying up treasure for the world to 
come. This consists of small paper houses painted 
and gilded, filled with minikin boxes, in which are 
little rolls of paper done over with gold and silver 
leaf. The houses and their contents are intended to 
procure a comfortable home, with all its convenien- 
ces, in the world to come. These miniature dwel- 
lings are locked with paper padlocks and keys ; and 
when a lady dies, the survivors burn the whole with 
much ceremony, believing that from the ashes will 
arise to her just the same things, only made of real 
silver and gold. 

The Tartars generally lead a wandering life, with 
no other wealth than their flocks and herds ; though 
some subsist by fishing, and a few by agriculture. 
Their dwellings are usually tents made of felt, and 
their food horse-flesh, mare's milk, and millet. They 
drink tea, boiled with milk, butter, and salt. Mare's 
milk is said to be deliciously sweet ; but the Tar- 
tars will not drink it till it has been fermented in 
leather bottles, which are never washed. Their 
habits are filthy, and, in common with the Chinese, 
they have very little delicacy about their food. Dr. 
Clarke says he saw a Calmuck girl grinning with 
delight because she had succeeded in snatching a 
portion of a decaying horse from thirteen hungry 
dogs. The Tartar women in general perform a 
greater share of labor than the men ; for it is a pre- 


Vailing opinion that they were sent into the world 
for no other purpose but to be useful and convenient 
slaves to the stronger sex* Besides cooking and 
other household avocations, they milk the mares, 
cows, and goats, take care of the cattle, tan leather, 
and make garments, mattresses, pillows, &c, of 

The baron de Tott gives the following account of 
their method of tailoring : " I approached a group 
of Tartars assembled round a dead horse, which they 
had just skinned. A young man about eighteen, 
without clothing, had the hide of the animal thrown 
over his shoulders. A woman, who performed the 
office of tailor with great dexterity, began by cutting 
the back of this new dress, following with her scis- 
sors the round of the neck, the fall of the shoulders, 
the semicircle which formed the sleeve, and the side 
of the habit, which was intended to reach below the 
knee. She proceeded in the same manner with the 
other parts, till the cutting out was finished. The 
man, who had served as a mould* then crouched on 
his hams, while the several pieces were stitched to- 
gether ; so that in less than two hours he had a good 
bay coat, which only needed to be tanned by con- 
tinual wearing." 

The Mongul race of Tartars are very ugly. Their 
complexion, which is naturally fair, becomes tawny 
by exposure. They have high cheek bones, broad 
flat noses, exceedingly small eyes, widely separated 
and placed very obliquely, scanty eyebrows, thick 
lips, and projecting ears, The infants are said to be 

164 T A it TAR WOMEN* 

iso unsightly, that they resemble bear's cubs rathei 
than human beings. 

The Tartar men and women dress very nearly 
alike. Both wear wide trowsers ; but the women's 
robe reaches to the feet, while that of the men does 
not extend further than the knees. The poorest 
wear garments made of the skins of animals, with 
the hair turned inside in winter, and outside in sum- 
mer. Some wear woollen, others linen ; and the 
khans, or princes, with their families, sometimes wear 
embroidered silks and brocades, trimmed with rich 
furs. Tartar women of all classes are very fond of 
ornaments. Their ear-rings are plain hoops of 
metal, to which strings of beads, or pieces of mother- 
of-pearl, are suspended. The neck and bosom is 
often covered with a net-work of beads, and their 
caps are frequently embroidered with beads, or co- 
vered with coins, laid one over another, like shingles 
on the roof of a house. The shape of these caps 
vary with the different tribes ; some are conical, 
some round, and others exactly resemble a bishop's 

Married women may generally be distinguished 
from unmarried, by the arrangement of the head- 
dress. Girls braid their hair in a much greater num- 
ber of tresses than the matrons, and adorn the ends 
with ribbons or coins. They sometimes interweave 
a quantity of horse-hair with their own. Children 
wear no clothing whatever, until they are ten or 
twelve years old. 

These tribes, like most people who have no care 


about accumulating wealth, are of an easy, indolent 
disposition, and spend much of their time in amuse- 
ment. During the long winter nights, the young 
people of both sexes enjoy themselves with music 
and dancing. Their most common instrument is a 
two-stringed lute. Their dancing consists more in 
the motions of the hands than the feet. 

The Calmucks are not, like some of the Tartar 
tribes, addicted to drunkenness ; but they occasion* 
ally have festivals, during which they continue to 
drink for half a day without interruption. On these 
occasions the young women place themselves by the 
men, and sing songs of love, or war, or fabulous ad-* 

The necessity of procuring fresh pasturage for 
their flocks, induces frequent migrations among the 
Calmucks ; and these occasions are celebrated with 
a good deal of parade and festivity. The khan? 
whose tents are carried before him, heads the proces 
sion, accompanied by the princes on horseback 
Women of any distinction have awnings over theil 
saddles, to protect them from the sun and rain. 

The doctrines of Lamaism forbid polygamy ; there 
fore the Calmucks, with very few exceptions, havs 
but one wife. The husband may, however, put 
away his partner, and seek another, whenevei 
it pleases him; and the wife may do the same, 
Such separations are not uncommon. Princes some* 
times marry their half-sisters ; but in general the 
Calmucks do not wed within the fourth or fifth de- 


gree of relationship ; and they very rarely marry out 
of their own class. 

When a young man has fixed his mind upon a girl, 
he sends to her relations to make proposals. If 
these are accepted, the lover gives an entertainment 
at the house of the bride's parents, where the be- 
trothal is forthwith celebrated. In case of refusal, 
the young man sometimes seizes the damsel and car- 
ries her off full speed. The parents cannot reclaim 
their daughter, if he succeeds in getting her within 
his hut, and preventing her escape until the next day; 
but this compulsory proceeding does not release him 
from the obligation of paying the accustomed price, 
in reindeer, camels, horses, or flocks. 

When the terms are settled in a more amicable 
Way, a magician is consulted to ascertain what day 
will be most fortunate for the nuptials ; and some- 
times the superstitious young couple are required to 
wait several months. On the appointed day, the 
bridegroom erects a neat new tent of white felt, very 
near the bride's parents. Her relations place her on 
horseback to be conducted to her husband ; and cus- 
tom requires that she should offer some resistance to 
the proceeding. A priest purifies the hut with in- 
cense and prayers, while the young couple go out and 
squat beside each other on their heels, according to 
the Tartar fashion. The priest comes forth, sits 
down cross-legged before them, and repeats the usual 

A dish of minced meat is offered the young couple, 
of which the man eats three handfuls, but the woman 


refuses to partake. The caps of the bridal pair are 
then thrown into the hut, and an entertainment be- 
gins, which lasts till midnight. Before they sepa 
rate, the married and unmarried females have a con- 
test together for the bride ; the former, who always 
gain the victory, arrange the girl's head-dress after 
the fashion of matrons. 

In a few days, the bridal tent is taken down, and 
the husband removes to his accustomed dwelling. 
During the two first years, the wife is not allowed to 
visit her parents, unless upon some great emergency; 
and then she must sit down outside of their hut, 
without presuming to enter it. At the end of that 
period, she goes to see them, and is loaded with 

Among one tribe of the Calmucks, called Soongas, 
marriages are celebrated on horseback. The bride, 
mounted on a fleet horse, gallops off at full speed ; 
the lover pursues ; and if he overtakes her, she is 
carried to his hut, and becomes his wife without 
further ceremony, except an entertainment to friends. 
If the damsel be disinclined to the match, the lover 
seldom succeeds in overtaking her before they arrive 
at the destined goal. 

The Calmucks are, almost without exception, re- 
markably expert riders. Even matrons of eighty 
years old will gallop twenty miles without stopping, 
and children pursue the fleet-footed antelopes half a 
day, upon their unshod horses. 

If men think they' have sufficient cause for jea- 
lousy, they sometimes put their wives to death with 


their own hands ; but if a woman should, in a sud- 
den fit of desperation, kill her husband, her nose and 
ears would be cut off, and she would be sold for a 
slave. They have very definite laws concerning 
marriages and marriage portions ; and certain pu- 
nishments are appointed for those who attempt to 
break off a match. 

The Buraits, on the frontiers of China, live in a 
manner very similar to the other Tartars. They 
have in their huts images of wood, felt, or tin, in- 
tended to represent good and evil spirits. The wo- 
men are not permitted to approach these images, or 
even to pass before them. Polygamy is lawful 
among this tribe ; and they take from one wife to 
five, according to their means of support. A girl 
costs from five head of cattle to one hundred ; and 
the wealthy sometimes give five hundred. The 
dowry given with the bride generally amounts to 
about one-fourth of the price paid for her. A new 
tent is built for a wedding. Festivities are kept up 
for Hve days, with singing, dancing, wrestling, and 
horse-racing, and each day a horse is killed, to feast 
relations and friends. Owing to the general con- 
tempt in which women are held, boys treat their 
fathers with much more respect than their mothers. 
When a woman dies, cooking utensils, a pipe, and a 
quantity of tobacco are buried with her, for her use 
in another world, as bows and arrows are always 
buried with the men. 

The inhabitants of western Tartary differ very 
much in personal appearance from the Mongui race ; 


being generally well shaped, with handsome features, 
and a Turkish cast of countenance. A large pro- 
portion of them are Mohammedans. Many of them, 
having gathered into large cities and villages, and ac- 
quired wealth, wear more elegant and tasteful appa- 
rel, and are more civilized in their habits, than the 
tribes previously described. The women are not 
handsome, but have a fresh, healthy, modest look, 
which is very pleasing. They are extremely frugal, 
industrious, and submissive. In some of the larger 
towns there are schools for girls as well as boys ; and 
though they probably never learn any thing more 
than reading and writing, these are rare advantages 
for the women of Asia. Among the Tartars, as 
among other eastern nations, married women are 
generally better dressed than girls. All the expense 
bestowed upon the latter would be a loss to the 
father when his daughters were sold, exchanged, or 
bestowed in marriage ; but the finery of wives is a 
perpetual credit to the wealth and generosity of 
their husbands. Almost all the Tartars are great 
admirers of scarlet garments, and all share the ori- 
ental taste for ornaments. The rich have their 
foreheads covered with a net- work of pearls, in lieu 
of which the poor wear glass beads. The married 
women fasten to the back of their jewelled-covered 
caps a piece of gay brocaded silk, adorned with 
pearls or beads, which hangs down nearly to the 
end of their robes. Some of the tribes stain their 
nails red, and their eyebrows black. They seldom 
appear before strangers without a veil. Dr. Clarke's 


servant, perceiving that the Tartar women of the 
Casan always covered their faces, and ran away at 
his approach, thought it polite to save them the 
trouble, by putting his hands to his own face, and 
getting out of their way as quick as possible. This 
excited female curiosity. The next time they met 
him, they partially removed their veils ; and he, as 
in duty bound, ran the faster. At last they fairly 
hunted him in troops, with their veils off, impatient 
to see the man who thus hid his face at the approach 
of a woman. 

Even the poorest habitations are divided into two 
parts; and the most intimate friend would give 
deadly offence, if he were to enter the dwellings ap- 
propriated to the female members of the family. 
Where there are several wives, each one has a sepa- 
rate set of apartments. The houses are generally 
very clean, being often whitewashed, and the floors 
well covered with neat mats and carpets. The rich 
sometimes have handsome Turkish sofas with da- 
mask canopies. 

Wives are purchased at various sums, from twenty 
to five hundred rubles, in money or flocks, according 
to beauty and other advantages. Among some of 
the pastoral tribes a good healthy girl may be ob- 
tained for two or three rubles. Their numbers are 
regulated by the same laws that prevail in other Mo- 
hammedan countries ; and, as usual, the poorer 
classes seldom have more than one wife. But when 
the first grows old, or ceases to please, they take a 
second. Merchants who are obliged to travel a 


good deal, generally maintain houses at various 
places, with a wife at each. 

The wedding ceremonies bear a general resem- 
blance to those already described. When the stipu- 
lated price has been paid, the priest, in the presence 
of assembled friends, asks the young people if they 
will wed one another, repeats a prayer, and bestows 
the nuptial blessing. Among the Tartars of the 
Casan, all the female friends of the bride meet at her 
father's house the day previous to the marriage, and 
deplore with her the approaching change in her con- 
dition, while two men sing songs that treat of the 
happiness of married life. 

The Katschinzes, when they wish for a bride, send 
an agent to the girl's father, to present him with 
brandy and a pipe of tobacco, and retire instantly 
without speaking. If, when he returns sometime 
afterward, the presents remain untouched, it is a re- 
fusal ; but if one has been drank and the other 
smoked, it is acceptance. At the end of six months, 
the lover himself comes to repeat the same cere- 
mony ; the price is stipulated, and the wedding ap- 
pointed. Sometimes several months elapse, before a 
day deemed sufficiently lucky arrives; but however 
long the probation may be, the young people must 
not indulge in any thing like courtship. A girl 
would be disgraced, if she were to give her intended 
husband the slightest reason to suppose she preferred 
him to any other man. 

When a young man is too poor to purchase a 
bride, he often agrees to serve her father four or five 

VOL. I. 12 


years. If a richer or more fortunate rival present 
himself before the term of service expires, the first 
suitor can merely demand wages for his work. If 
the girl dies in the mean time, the bargain is trans- 
ferred to her sister ; and if she had no sister, the 
lover loses his labor. If the intended bridegroom 
should die, his future bride becomes one of his father's 

But if none of these misfortunes occur, and the 
wedding takes place, the bride must never see her 
father-in-law after the day of the marriage ; should 
she chance to meet him, she must fall on the 
ground and conceal her face till he has passed. Her 
other relatives visit her when they please. In case 
of any dissatisfaction, the husband sends his wife 
back to her parents, and retains the children as his 

A Baschkir girl, before marriage, takes formal 
leave of all the females of the hamlet, and afterward 
of the milk vessel from which she has been fed since 
infancy ; this memorial of childhood is embraced 
with many tear*. When the priest unites the young 
couple, he gives the husband an arrow, saying : " Be 
bold ; support and protect thy wife." The bride- 
groom conducts her to his hut, and a woman goes 
before them proclaiming aloud the portion of the 
bride. When the bride enters her husband's dwel- 
ling, she kneels down before his nearest relations. 
The festivities continue three days. 

Among the Yakutes, it is customary for the bride- 
groom to remain with his father-in-law several days 


after the wedding, and entertain his friends there. 
When his wife is conducted to her new habitation, 
she is led by female relatives, her own face being 
closely covered with ermine. The door is barred 
by a slender piece of wood, which she pushes against 
and breaks. When she has entered, seven small 
sticks with bits of butter are put into her hands, and 
she throws them in the fire, while the priest pro- 
nounces a blessing. On this occasion, feasts are 
again given for two days to relations and friends. 

Married women of this tribe wear an odd kind of 
cap, made of the skin of some animal, in such a 
manner that the ears stand upright and resemble 

The Yakutes and Baschkirs, unlike most of the 
neighboring nations and tribes, always consult the 
inclinations of their daughters, before they agree to 
a marriage contract. Where there is more than one 
wife, the first, provided she has borne children, always 
retains a certain degree of pre-eminence over the 
others. When a husband dies, such of his wives as 
have had no children return to their parents, with the 
clothes and presents they have received; if they 
have no paternal home, they can remain subordinate 
to the oldest wife, and are entitled to a tenth part of 
the cattle. 

The occupations of the wealthy classes are similar 
to those of other Asiatic women of rank. The love 
of smoking is universal. Tartar women, besides 
cooking, tending their children, making garments, 
and milking the flocks, tan the skins of water-fowl, 


with the feathers on, for caps and other articles; 
weave cloth from common nettles ; spin cotton of 
extraordinary fineness ; make felt coverings for the 
tents ; dye cloth ; tan leather by means of sour milk 
and chalk ; and manufacture water-bottles, as trans- 
parent as horn, from the hides of horses and camels. 
While they are busy at these various avocations, the 
men take care of the flocks, hunt, fish, or lie stretch- 
ed at their ease beside the kumiss bottle. 

Few Tartars marry more than one wife. They 
seldom take a second while they live in peace with 
the first. They expend a great deal in wedding enter- 
tainments ; even the peasantry sometimes lavish a 
thousand roubles on such occasions. The higher 
classes will never bestow a younger daughter in 
marriage before the elder is disposed of, though a 
much higher price should be offered for the junior 
sister. When a murza, or Tartar noble, enters the 
apartments of his women, they all rise up respect- 
fully, and repeat the same ceremony when he leaves 
the room, though he may come and go very fre- 
quently. Very aged women are, by permission, 
excused from this inconvenient homage, on account 
of their infirmities. 

But though the women are kept in a state of such 
complete subjection, personal abuse is considered 
very dishonorable, and the Tartars are seldom guilty 
of it. In case of ill usage, a wife may complain to 
magistrates, who, attended by some of the principal 
people of the village, go to the house, pronounce a 


formal divorce, and give the woman permission to 
return to her own relations. 

Tartar mothers nurse their infants till they are 
two or three years old, and think Christian women 
very cruel to wean them so early. 

There is little variety in amusements. The men 
and women generally have separate dances. Those 
of the men are lively and martial ; but the female 
dances consist principally in slow motions and 
changing attitudes, while the face is covered by the 
hands. The women in general have no share in the 
amusements of men ; because this could not be with- 
out violating Mohammedan ideas of decorum. The 
day when any tribe removes to fresh pastures is al- 
ways a day of festivity. The women, sure of being 
seen by all the men, decorate themselves in their 
best style, and put on all their store of ornaments. 

The Mohammedan Tartars often make war on 
their neighbors, for the purpose of obtaining slaves 
to sell. They frequently steal children for this pur- 
pose ; and if their own daughters are beautiful, or 
their wives give them the least offence, they do not 
hesitate to sell them to the Jewish slave merchants, 
who are always traversing the country. 

In former times nearly the whole of Asia was tri- 
butary to the powerful Mogul empire. Traces of 
ancient wealth and refinement are oecasionally dug 
up from the ruins of edifices built by Zinghis Khan 
and Tamerlane. In 1720, there were found, in Cal- 
muck Tartary, urns, lamps, ear-rings, an equestrian 
statue, the image of a prince wearing a diadem, anc* 


two women seated on thrones. It is said the Mogul 
women sometimes inherited the crown, but always 
issued their decrees from behind a screen. They 
were sometimes admitted to the apartments of men 
after supper, where they conversed and partook of 
the refreshments offered them. On such occasions 
they always remained veiled, and the slightest rude- 
ness toward them would have been revenged even 
unto death. When present at any public entertain- 
ments, the Mogul women were screened from obser- 
vation by galleries of close lattice-work. 

The Amazons, so famed in history, are supposed 
to have lived on the borders of the Black sea. They 
are said to have formed a state from which men were 
entirely excluded, to have founded cities, and con- 
quered nations. They are represented armed with 
bows, arrows, javelins, and a peculiar kind of axe, call- 
ed "the axe of the Amazons." Some ancient writers 
dispute the existence of this female empire ; but the 
monuments and coins on which Amazons are repre- 
sented are too numerous to admit a doubt that there 
was some foundation for the story. That it was a na- 
tion without men is highly improbable. The women 
were probably warlike, and perhaps fought battles 
in squadrons, separate from their husbands and bro- 
thers. Among some of the Tartar tribes of the pre- 
sent day, females manage a horse, hurl a javelin, hunt 
wild animals, and fight an enemy, as well as the 


The women of Siberia are in a state of the most 
abject slavery. Brides are bought with money, cat- 
tle, or clothing, and their numbers depend on the 
wealth of the purchaser. The tribe called Tchu- 
wasches offer honey and bread to the sun, and to 
other deities, at the time the marriage contract is 
settled. On the wedding day, the bride hides her- 
self behind a screen until the guests are assembled; 
she then walks slowly three times round the room, 
preceded by young girls who carry beer, honey, and 
bread. The bridegroom enters, snatches off her veil, 
kisses her, and exchanges rings with her. She then 
hands refreshments to the assembled guests, who hail 
her as the betrothed girl. After this, she again retires 
behind the screen, where the married women assist 
her in putting on the matron's cap, which is much 
more ornamented than the head-dress worn by maid- 
ens. After all have partaken of a feast, the new wife 
pulls off her husband's boots, in token of subservience 
to him. The festivities continue for two days ; and 
at parting the guests generally deposit some coin in 
a loaf of bread, hollowed out for the purpose. 

It is considered a wife's duty to obey the most 
capricious and unreasonable commands of her hus- 
band, without one word of expostulation or inquiry. 
If her master be dissatisfied with the most trifling 
particular in her conduct, he tears the cap or veil 
from her head, and this constitutes a divorce. The 
complexion of these people is generally extremely 
pale, owing probably to their wretched fare. 

The marriage ceremonies of the Tcheremisses are 


almost precisely similar to those just described. The 
morning after a wedding, a man, who represents the 
father of the bride, delivers the husband a whip, 
which is very freely used whenever his wife offends 
him. They have sacred groves, where the ceremo- 
nials of pagan worship are performed. Women are 
not allowed to approach these places, and men must 
bathe before they enter. The mead, cakes, and beer, 
offered to their gods must be prepared by virgins. 
At the return of vegetation in the spring, a great 
sacrifice is offered to their deities, accompanied by a 
feast ; this is the only occasion, on which the wo- 
men and children are allowed to eat with their hus- 
bands and fathers. 

Among the Morduans, when the stipulated price 
has been paid, the father of the bridegroom leads 
away the bride, who, closely veiled, departs from the 
parental roof with many tears. On reaching the 
bridegroom's dwelling, her future spouse, pulling his 
cap over his eyes, sits down with her to table. His 
father takes a cake three feet long, prepared for the 
occasion, and putting one end of it under the bride's 
veil, says, " Behold the light. Mayst thou be happy 
in bread and children !" After this ceremony, the 
young man is, for the first time, permitted to see the 
woman whom his father has chosen for him. The 
day is spent in dancing, singing, feasting, and drink- 
ing ; at the close of which the bride is placed on a 
mat and carried to the bridegroom, to whom she is 
consigned with these words : " There, wolf, take thy 


The Wotyake fathers go to the house of their 
sons-in-law, soon after the wedding, with a portion 
of the dowry they had promised; they take the 
bride back to the parental home, where she remains 
for a few months, sometimes a year. During this 
time, she lays aside the matron dress she had as- 
sumed, and works partly for her parents, partly for 
herself. When her husband comes to claim her 
again, she shows the same reluctance to accompany 
him, that she did at first. These women are very 
modest, virtuous, and industrious. 

The Ostiaks generally make a great many visits 
to a girl's father, before her price is settled ; and 
each time a strong effort is made to abate the sum, 
so as to get as cheap a bargain as possible. The 
price varies from ten to one hundred reindeer ; but 
the bride usually brings some dowry to her husband. 
As soon as the young man has paid half the price 
they have agreed upon, he comes to the hut and 
takes up his abode there. If he likes the girl, who 
without further ceremony is considered his wife, he 
is bound to give her mother a reindeer ; but if he has 
cause for dissatisfaction, she is obliged to give him 
one. The husband cannot take his wife to his own 
hut, or beat her without her father's permission, un- 
til the whole of her price is paid. On payment of 
the second installment, a wedding feast is given, and 
the company divert themselves with singing, dancing, 
and stories of love or war. The men and women 
daifce together, in couples, with a variety of amorous 


The Tungusians are the prettiest women in Sibe- 
ria, and the men are the best archers. Some of them 
tattoo lines, curves, and figures on various parts of 
the face. It is done by drawing threads, blackened 
with soot, under the skin. The threads are soon 
withdrawn, but when the violent inflammation sub- 
sides, dark blue marks appear, which are never after- 
ward erased. This painful operation is performed 
on children from six to ten years old. A wife is 
bought for a few reindeer, but not even the simple 
and universal ceremony of a feast takes place in 
commemoration of the event. 

The Samoyedes have such squat figures, large 
heads, small eyes, flat noses, and wide mouths, that 
some old travellers described them as human beings 
with dogs' heads. The women are said to be some- 
what less ugly than the men. A Samoyede has as 
many wives as he can furnish reindeer to pay for ; 
but no ceremonies of any kind consecrate their mar- 

The Tchuktchi are among the wildest of the Sibe- 
rians. They consider it wrong and disgraceful to rob 
or murder one of their own tribe ; but such actions are 
regarded as honorable, and even glorious, when com- 
mitted upon the members of any other tribe. This 
is a good commentary on Christian and enlightened 
nations, who consider it a great sin to make slaves 
of their own people, but regard the self-same action 
as perfectly justifiable toward persons of different 
complexion. If savage nations could write our his- 
tory, how ridiculous they might make us appear by 


stating simple facts, without the varnish of sophistry 
with which we are accustomed to conceal them ! 

But to return to the Tchuktchi ; expertness in theft 
is considered so honorable, that a girl who has not 
given some such proofs of her abilities, stands a poor 
chance for a husband. These people, as well as the 
Koraiks, have as many wives as they can buy. 
Those who are rich in flocks often have one to tend 
each of their numerous herds. The poor serve their 
intended father-in-law for a stipulated time, or carry 
off some girl by force. 

The men of Kamtschatka are an uncouth looking 
race ; but when the women are clean, they are said 
not to be altogether disagreeable. They have black 
hair and eyes, a ruddy complexion, and small hands 
and feet. The Kamtschadales take as many wives as 
they can, and abandon them whenever they think 

The Siberians spend their time in hunting, fishing, 
smoking, drinking, and bartering away their furs to 
Russian traders, by the light of a brand, in a country 
covered with eternal snows. All the numerous and 
toilsome domestic occupations fall upon the women. 
They build the huts, tend the cattle, pack the 
sledges, harness the reindeer, weave mats, baskets, 
and cloth, dye worsted for embroidery, tan hides, 
make garments, cook the food, tend the children, 
and in some tribes catch all the fish. Their hus- 
bands are savagely jealous ; yet they would consider 
it beneath their masculine dignity to reward the 
most virtuous and industrious wife wilh a kind word, 

182 SIBERIAN women; 

or even a kind look. Women are not allowed to eat 
with men ; and particular dainties, such as reindeer's 
head, they are never suffered to taste. Among many 
tribes they seem to be regarded as impure, unholy 
beings. They must not approach that portion of the 
hut which contains any sacred object ; in loading or 
unloading the sledges, they are not suffered to step 
across the foot-marks of men or reindeer, but must 
go round the sledge ; and it is deemed necessary to 
purify by fumigation the places where they have sat- 
When likely to become mothers their situation is 
peculiarly deplorable ; for they are then obliged to 
live on stale, half putrid provisions, not being al- 
lowed to touch fresh food. 

When boys commit any fault, mothers are often 
beaten for it in their stead. Under these cruel cir- 
cumstances, the love of offspring, naturally so strong 
in the female heart, is entirely destroyed. Wives de- 
precate becoming mothers, and use all the means with- 
in their knowledge to destroy innocent beings, who, 
if they drew the breath of existence, would only add to 
their cares and sufferings. They nurse their infants 
for a very long time. When busy, they hang them 
up in a sort of basket, while the older children tum- 
ble about on hay spread on the ground. Their cabins 
are parted into small divisions not unlike cow stalls, 
and each mother has her separate establishment. It 
is not unusual to see Samoyede women mothers at 
eleven years old, although they inhabit an intensely 
cold climate, on the very borders of the Frozen ocean. 

Throughout Siberia it is a common thing for a 


tnan who is too poor to buy a wife, and too lazy to 
work for one, to seize and carry off by main force 
the first woman he meets ; indeed this is not a rare 
occurrence among any tribes where wives are pur- 
chased. If the depredator be overtaken, he is likely 
to receive a sound drubbing ; but if he secures the 
prize within his hut, he can make much cheaper 
arrangements with the parents, than he could under 
other circumstances. 

The Siberian women are remarkably stupid and 
listless. In general they seem to be alive to no 
other emotion than fear of the cudgel. Yet, even 
in the rudest tribes, there are individuals who care 
enough about personal attractions to paint their 
faces red and white, or tattoo the face, neck, and 
arms in whimsical patterns. The Tchuktchi wo- 
men, who wear merely trowsers and robes of dog- 
skin, or reindeer's skin, with the hair outside, leave 
one half of the breast uncovered, tattoo the arms, 
and almost always contrive to have some kind of 
ear-rings and necklaces. 

The Kamtschadale women used to wear feather 
caps in winter, and wooden hats in summer; but 
Eussian caps are now in general use ; and commerce 
has made them so luxurious that a few of the rich 
paint their faces, wear garments of costly fur, with 
silk stockings and morocco shoes. 

Most of the Siberian women wear bark shoes, and 
wrap up their ankles in rags, until they resemble 
stumps. Tribes in the vicinity of trading stations 
are comparatively well supplied with the neces- 


saries and conveniences of life, and the women are 
less stupid and indifferent. Their dress is sometimes 
not altogether devoid of taste, and even elegance. 
Their garments are neatly made, all the borders and 
seams being embroidered with colored worsted. 
Their birch bark caps are adorned with coral, beads, 
shells, coins, or small plates of metal. Suspended be- 
hind these gay head-dresses are loose floating bands, 
or festoons of beads ; and sometimes from each shoul- 
der hangs a long strip of yellow leather or cloth, 
adorned with little brass images of horses, reindeer, 
and fish. Some hang from their girdles a collection 
of tassels, thimbles, buttons, and other trinkets, 
which make an incessant jingling when they walk. 
Indeed one of the smarter sort of Siberian women, 
in what she considers full dress, carries decorations 
that would be quite too heavy to caparison a horse. 

The Siberians have various uncouth pantomimic 
dances. Those in which the women are allowed to 
join, are generally of an amorous character, and not 
remarkably decorous. Cleanliness either in their 
persons, food, or garments, is a rare virtue among 
these tribes ; some are filthy beyond description. 

The shamans of Siberia are priests, physicians, 
and sorcerers. Children of extremely irritable nerves 
are usually chosen for this profession, the duties of 
which are fatiguing and often frightful. The poor 
creatures are made to drink intoxicating liquors, and 
early have their imaginations filled with an idea of 
the awful supernatural power they are destined to 
receive from evil spirits. These preparations induce 
paroxysms of frenzy, during which their words and 



actions are supposed to be inspired. Women, from 
their liability to nervous disorders, are often chosen 
for this purpose. The parents of such debilitated 
girls make money by the superstitions of people 
who come to consult them, and to purchase little 
images as a protection against malignant spirits. 
These unfortunate beings often lead an existence full 
of terror, laboring under great bodily weakness, and 
fully believing themselves under the influence of the 
evil one ; some of them, however, are artful, and en- 
joy the power which they know to be a mere mock- 
ery. They wear the horns of animals, stuffed ser- 
pents, eagles' claws, and all manner of fantastic 
things, to give them an awful appearance. 

When the Siberians remove to a new place of re- 
sidence, the women sometimes walk on snow-shoes, 
and sometimes ride the reindeer. The Kamtscha- 
dale women travel in sledges, but are obliged to have 
some man with them, to guide the unruly dogs* 

A Mohammedan woman riding. 

Girl of Timor. 


The prevailing customs in Ceylon are similar to 
those of India. They are divided into distinct castes, 
from the nobleman to the weaver of mats ; the chil- 
dren follow the same business as their fathers ; and it 
is not allowable for one tribe to marry into another. 
The people in general labor hard, and subsist on a 
little rice and salt. One of their principal ceremo- 
nies of marriage, consists in tying the garments of 
the bride and bridegroom together, in token that 
they are bound together for life. This is solemnized 
in the presence of friends and relations, with such 
festivities as the wealth of the parties admit. 


In many of the islands of the Eastern Archipelago? 
the condition of women is far better than it is on the 
continent of Asia. They are not shut up within the 
walls of a harem, but are allowed to eat with the 
men, and associate with them on terms of equality. 
Foreigners are freely introduced to them, and they 
sometimes attend the parties given by English and 
Dutch residents, where they uniformly behave with 
modesty and propriety. 

Before the introduction of Mohammedanism into 
Java, women often held the highest offices of govern- 
ment ; and when the chief of a district dies, it is 
even now not uncommon for the widow to retain the 
authority that belonged to her deceased husband. 
Polygamy is permitted by religion and law, but the 
common people seldom have more than one wife. 
The sovereign of Java does not by custom have more 
than four, nor the chiefs more than two ; but they 
generally have a greater or less number of mis- 
tresses. It is extremely easy to obtain divorces and 
form new connections ; but during the continuance 
of the relation, the matrimonial vow is said in gene- 
ral to be faithfully observed. If a woman is dis- 
satisfied with her husband, she can obtain divorce by 
paying a certain sum of money established by cus- 
tom. The lower class pay about twenty dollars, and 
the higher pay fifty. The husband can refuse to 
consent, but he seldom does so, because it is con- 
sidered dishonorable to live with a reluctant com- 
panion. It is not uncommon to see a woman who 
has divorced three or four husbands before she is 
vol. i. 13 


thirty years old. Some individuals change their 
mates ten or twelve times. A man may at any time 
obtain separation by making suitable provision for 
his wife's support ; and this is no difficult matter in 
a country where food is very abundant, and shelter 
almost unnecessary. 

The Javanese have very little of the Asiatic 
jealousy of women ; but when they believe them- 
selves wronged, they pursue the offender with the 
most implacable revenge. The prince of Madura, 
during times of political commotion, sought refuge 
with his family on board a Dutch ship. The captain, 
according to the custom of his country, greeted the 
princess with a kiss. She screamed, and her husband 
immediately stabbed him to the heart. 

There are three kinds of marriages in Java. The 
first, which is most common, is where the rank of 
the parties is equal, or the bridegroom superior to the 
bride ; the second is where the wife's station is much 
above that of the husband ; and the third is a sort of 
half-marriage, the offspring of which are not allowed 
to be upon an entire equality with the other children. 
In the two first kinds of marriage, the ceremonies are 
alike; but in the last there is no ceremony at all. 
The first wife is always at the head of the family ; 
on this account, no father is willing to bestow his 
daughter upon a man of his own rank for a second 
or third wife. 

Girls are generally disposed of in marriage at a 
very early age. An unmarried woman of twenty-two 
years old is almost unheard of in Java. 


The wedding ceremonies are similar to those in 
neighboring countries. The betrothment is arranged 
by relatives, and consists in the offering and accepting 
of gifts. 

A price is always paid by the bridegroom, in 
money, jewels, clothes, buffaloes, or rice, according 
to his wealth. This is generally regarded as a pro- 
vision for the wife ; but among some tribes, the 
money or goods is given outright to the girl's pa- 
rents. On the wedding day, the bridegroom, dressed 
in his richest attire, and mounted on his best steed, 
proceeds to the bride's dwelling, accompanied by his 
friends with music. When they approach, she comes 
out to meet them, and receives them with a low 
obeisance. In some districts they have a frolicsome 
custom of throwing bundles of betel leaves at each 
other, as soon as the bride appears at the door. If 
she receives a blow on the forehead it is considered 
as a sign that she will have to obey her husband ; 
but if the reverse happens, it is supposed that she 
will govern him. The bridegrroorr* conducts his 
bride to a seat elevated avove the rest of the com- 
pany, and in token of their intention to live together, 
they eat siri (or betel leaves) from the same siri-box. 
In some places they eat rice from the same vessel. 
The nuptials are celebrated at the mosque, according 
to the Mohammedan ritual, and the young couple 
move through the village in gay procession ; the 
bride in an open litter, decked with all the jewels she 
could buy or borrow, and the bridegroom and his 
friends on horseback, with as much splendor of ap- 


pearance as their means will allow. They are 
always accompanied by music, and sometimes a buf- 
foon goes before them making ludicrous gestures. 
They return to a feast at the bride's parents' ; and on 
the fifth day after the marriage, a new procession is 
formed to escort them to the house of the bride- 
groom's father, where an entertainment is prepared, 
and where they again eat siri from the same siri-box. 

In some districts, the spinning wheel, loom, and 
various cooking utensils, are carried in the bridal 
procession. Among some tribes in the interior, it is 
customary for the bride to wash the bridegroom's 
feet, in token of subjection ; in other places, he treads 
upon a raw egg, which she wipes from his foot. In 
some parts of the island, when a man marries a 
second or third wife, he approaches the bride with a 
burning brand, on which she pours water from a 
vase. An English traveller speaks of a widow, who, 
growing weary of this ceremony before the brand 
was extinguished, threw the remainder of the water 
full in her lover's face. As first marriages are gene- 
Tally arranged by parents, the second wife is more apt 
to be the object of real affection. 

In Java the labor of women is estimated about as 
high as that of men ; and as they are generally in- 
dustrious and frugal, they are quite independent of 
the other sex. Children are not deserted or neglected, 
as they are in many parts of Asia, because in Java 
it is very easy to support them, and to employ them 
profitably. Among the poor, it is common for the 
parents to drop their proper names on the birth of 


their first child, especially if it be a son : if the 
babe, as often happens, is called by such a name as 
The Handsome One, they are called the Father and 
Mother of The Handsome One. 

The birth of a child is celebrated by a feast of 
yellow rice, to which the relations are invited ; but 
the name is not conferred with any religious cere- 
monies. A yearly festival is held in Java in honor 
of the dead. On these occasions, men, women, and 
children, dressed in their best clothing, repair to the 
burial-places and strew the tombs of their parents 
with flowers consecrated to that purpose. 

All the women in Java, from the princess to the 
peasant, weave and make the garments worn by 
their families. Men are accustomed to pride them- 
selves on the beauty of the cloth woven by their 
wives and daughters. In every part of the island 
women may be seen spinning and weaving, on an 
elevated veranda in front of their bamboo cottages, 
protected from the sun by a projection of the roof. 

The Javanese are generally mild, respectful, and 
timid. They are said to have a pensive look, and 
their demeanor is somewhat elegant and insinuating. 
Women of the lower classes, being very much ex- 
posed to the influence of an intensely hot climate, 
become extremely ugly in their old age. 

With regard to complexion, they consider a golden 
yellow as the standard of perfection. One of their 
popular poets, describing a graceful woman, says, 
" Her neck was yellow as gold, her gait was gentle 
and majestic, like that of an elephant," The Java* 


nese have naturally very fine teeth, but they used to 
consider it a disgrace to let them remain " white, like 
a dog's;" and at eight or nine years old, they were 
filed and died indelibly black, with a preparation 
made of burnt cocoa-nut. This is a painful opera- 
tion, but was formerly considered so necessary, that 
when they wished to say a girl was past her child- 
hood, they expressed it by saying, " She has had her 
teeth filed." Some people of fantastic taste had 
them filed so as to resemble a saw. But Sir Stam- 
ford Raffles says the custom of filing the teeth in 
any way is now nearly out of fashion in Java. 

They spoil their mouths, which are usually hand- 
some, by the use of betel and tobacco. Both men 
and women take pride in a beautiful head of hair, 
which they perfume with fragrant oils. The women 
fasten it in a knot at the back of the head, and when 
in full dress they interweave it with an enormous 
mass of flowers, and wear wreaths suspended from 
the ears. The Indian islanders are extremely fond 
of flowers ; it is an epithet they always apply to 
express beautiful things. 

When the Javanese wish to appear particularly 
fascinating, they stain the face, neck, and arms with 
a yellow cosmetic obtained from perfumed flowers. 

The sovereign keeps a select band of beautiful 
dancers for the amusement of the royal household. 
These females are the only persons that are allowed 
to perform the s' rimpi, — a slow, modest, and exceed- 
ingly graceful dance, resembling a minuet by four 
persons. At the beginning and end of the dance, 


the performers raise their clasped hands to their 
foreheads, and bend reverentially toward the prince. 
None but very young girls belong to this band, and 
they leave it as soon as they become mothers. 

Javanese women of high rank dress in a manner 
exceedingly tasteful and magnificent. They wear 
full flowing robes of delicate silk, of green or other 
colors, stamped with golden flowers ; their girdles 
are composed of plates of gold, clasped with dia- 
monds ; while armlets, bracelets, and tiaras are richly 
chased and studded with gems. 

The public class of dancers, called rong-gengs, are 
similar to their frail sisters of Hindostan in dress and 
deportment. But notwithstanding their profligacy, 
those who acquire considerable fortune frequently 
marry men much superior to themselves in rank. 
Their songs are very comic, and they are sometimes 
accompanied by a buffoon, who excites laughter by a 
ludicrous imitation of all their movements. The Ja- 
vanese dances have the same characteristics, which 
distinguish that amusement in various parts of Asia. 
They consist principally in graceful attitudes, and 
slow movements of the limbs, even to distinct mo- 
tions of the hands and fingers. Men often join in 
these dances, but no females, except professional 
dancers, ever perform before strangers. 

The women of Java are very fond of a peculiar 
kind of amusement called sintren. A little boy or 
girl, richly dressed, is put under a basket, and music 
and song burst forth, while all the spectators clap 
their hands to keep time. The basket soon begins 


to move; in a short time the child rises — dances 
in a wild but graceful manner— seems to sink ex- 
hausted into slumber — and awakes apparently un- 
conscious of all that has happened. The charm 
consists in the idea that the whole soul is fascinated, 
and led unawares by the power of music. 

The women of this island do not go with the up- 
per part of the person uncovered, as they do in the 
southern parts of the peninsula. 

The Javanese are exceedingly superstitious. Their 
fears are easily excited by dreams and bad omens, 
and they are great believers in old women endowed 
with supernatural powers. 

Sumatra is less advanced in civilization than Java, 
and is inhabited by various tribes of different origin. 
The Battas are an irritable and warlike tribe. They 
take as many wives as they please, and seldom have 
less than five or six. The women live in the same 
apartment with their husband ; the room has no 
partitions, but each wife has a separate fireplace. 
As the bridegroom always makes a present of buffa- 
loes, or horses, to the parents of the bride, daughters 
are considered a source of wealth. The women do 
all the work, while their husbands lounge in idle- 
ness, playing on the flute, with wreaths of globe-ama- 
ranth around their heads ; or racing with each other, 
without saddle or stirrups, or hunting deer, or gam- 
bling away their wives, their children, and them- 
selves. The Battas consider their wives and children 
as slaves, and sell them whenever they choose. An 


unfaithful wife has her hair cut off, and is sold 
for a slave ; the paramour is killed and eaten by her 
husband's tribe. 

On festival occasions, the girls wear gold pendants 
in their ears, and fasten their hair with golden pins, 
having heads in the shape of birds or dragons. 
They likewise give a beautiful polish to large shells, 
of which they make bracelets. Their dress covers 
the person modestly. 

More is known of the Redjangs than of any other 
tribe in Sumatra. They are a small, well-formed 
race, with deep olive complexion, and hair of shin- 
ing blackness, owing partly to the cocoa-nut oil with 
which they constantly anoint it. The women are 
very proud of long hair, which they roll up tastefully 
on the crown of the head. They are fond of wear- 
ing garlands, which are generally composed of white, 
or light yellow, flowers. In some districts the girls 
wear fillets half an inch broad around their fore- 
heads ; the poor have them made of the leaves of the 
nipak-palm, but the rich wear silver and gold. 

The Redjangs have the absurd custom of stretch- 
ing the ears, flattening the noses, and compressing 
the heads of new-born infants. They let the nails 
of the middle and little finger grow to an extraordi- 
nary length. The tips of the fingers are stained 
with the red juice of henna ; and it is singular that 
their hands are always cold to the touch. 

Their common garments are generally made of the 
bark of the paper-mulberry tree, prepared in a man- 
ner similar to Otaheite cloth. 


The women in general are very ugly, but some of 
them are remarkably handsome ; especially among 
the higher classes, who are not necessarily exposed 
to the influence of the sun. A Sumatran woman is 
considered old at thirty, and decrepit at forty. The 
same custom with regard to names prevails here as 
in Java. If a child is named Ladin, the parents are 
called the Father and Mother of Ladin. It is a cus- 
tom with them never to speak their own name ; if a 
stranger inquires what it is, they ask another person 
to tell it. 

The Redjangs manifest a degree of delicacy to- 
ward women, which one would not expect from a 
people half civilized. Virtue and modesty are held 
in high estimation, and as a natural consequence the 
opposite vices are rare. If an unmarried woman 
disgraces herself, her father and lover are both fined ; 
if unable to pay, she is sold for a slave. A disho- 
nored husband seldom seeks redress by a legal pro- 
cess ; he is either silent, or revenges his own wrongs. 
Girls are seldom trusted from the presence of their 
mothers ; but at public festivals, in the town hall, 
young people meet to dance and sing. If a young 
man takes a fancy to any of the assembly, he 
generally sends some elderly woman with presents 
to the damsel. Her parents then interfere, and if 
they consider the match a suitable one, the prelimi- 
naries are soon settled. There are three different 
kinds of marriage among the Redjangs. By the 
first mode, the husband purchases his wife for a 
given sum, and she becomes his slave, to all intents 


and purposes. In this case, a man is allowed to 
have as many wives as he can buy and maintain. 
This marriage, which is called marriage by jour- 
jour, is in most cases modified by a custom, which 
enables the parents of the bride to reconcile their 
avarice with affection. A part of the price of their 
daughter remains unpaid, and is called tali Jcoulo, or 
the bond of friendship. While this sum, however 
small, remains due, the woman is not the slave of 
her husband ; he cannot sell her, or abuse her with 
impunity, and she is at liberty to seek a divorce 
from him when she pleases. When families are 
upon good terms, a portion of the jourjour often 
remains unpaid for several generations ; and some 
men are quite rich from the sums due to them for 
daughters, sisters, aunts, and grand-aunts. These 
are regarded as debts of honor, and are very seldom 
lost. Where the whole jourjour is paid and received 
during the lifetime of a woman, she is completely in 
the power of her husband ; her only privilege is, that 
he is obliged to sell her to her relations, if they offer 
as high a price as he can obtain elsewhere. But 
these connections are very rarely formed without 
the tali koulo, or bond of friendship. 

The second kind of marriage is called marriage by 
ambelanack. In this case the husband is adopted by 
the bride's father, remains with him, works under 
his authority, and both parents and children are 
considered as the property of the head of the family. 
A man who is married in this way cannot take 
another wife, without the consent of his adopted 


father ; but if he acquires, either by industry or in- 
heritance, a sum sufficient to pay the expenses atten- 
dant upon other forms of . marriage, he can at any 
time secure to himself and wife the privileges be- 
longing to them. 

By the third mode, the husband gives and receives 
a sum of money, and the wife is on a perfect equality 
with him. This is called marriage by simando, and 
takes place less frequently than the other forms. In 
this case, a second wife cannot be taken without di- 
vorcing the first, and giving her half the fortune ; but 
if the wife herself seeks the separation, she loses her 
right to half the property, and can only receive her 
original dowry. 

The various regulations connected with these dif- 
ferent forms of marriage, and consecrated by custom 
only, are carefully observed. 

The wedding ceremonies are very simple. The 
father of one of the parties, or the chief of the vil- 
lage, joins their hands and pronounces them husband 
and wife. An iman performs this office for those 
who are Mohammedans. A bamboo broken in the 
presence of the parties and their relations constitutes 
a divorce. 

The Redjangs are gentle, patient, polite, and seri- 
ous. They bathe frequently, but never wash their 

The Lampongs, who reside in the south part of 
Sumatra, are distinguished by a complexion lighter 
than the other tribes. In the shape of their faces, 
and the form of their eyes, they resemble the Chi* 


ttese. The tallest and handsomest women of the 
island belong to this tribe. Their manners are much 
more free than the Redjangs, and they are less scru- 
pulous about the character of their wives and daugh- 
ters. It is a common thing to see a young girl 
sitting out of doors, perfuming and arranging her 
lover's hair, while he lays his head in her lap, and 
looks up affectionately in her face. They generally 
marry by jourjour, and the bride is always protected 
by the tali koulo, or bond of friendship. Marriages 
by simando are very rare. At festivals, a young man 
is appointed to select the couples that shall dance 
together. On these occasions both men and women 
use perfumed ointments, and paint their faces in fan- 
tastic style. 

The Sumatrans have naturally very perfect teeth, 
but they grind them away almost to the gums, or 
file them to a point, and dye them jet black. The 
wealthy have the teeth of the lower jaw covered 
with gold plate, so as to produce a rich contrast 
with the upper ones. Those who cannot afford this, 
leave one or two white, by way of contrast. A feast 
is given by the family whenever a child has its ears 
pierced and teeth filed. Women do not carry infants 
in their arms, but sitting astride on the hip, support- 
ed by a cloth which is tied on the opposite shoulder. 
Their cradles are made to swing from the ceiling, 
like those of the Hindoos. 

Very little is known concerning the social condi- 
tion of Borneo. It contains various tribes, similar 

200 women of Borneo. 

to each other in person and manners. The women 
of the Biadjos are said to be tall and handsome. 
Their only clothing is a strip of cloth about the 
waist, and they are accustomed to paint their bodies 
blue. They hang weights to their ears, about as 
large as a crown-piece, which stretches them to an 
immoderate length. They plate their teeth with 
gold, and wear necklaces of tigers' teeth. 

No man is allowed to solicit a damsel in marriage 
until he has cut off the head of an enemy. When 
this condition is fulfilled the lover makes presents to 
his mistress ; if they are accepted, an entertainment 
is given by her parents, and on the ensuing day by 
his parents. After the feast, the bridegroom is con- 
ducted home to the house of the bride. At the door, 
a friend sprinkles him with the blood of a cock, and 
her with the blood of a hen ; the parties then give 
each other their bloody hands, and from that time 
they live together. If the blood of the fowls spirts 
too far, it is deemed an unlucky sign. If a man 
loses his wife, he cannot marry a second, till he cuts 
off the head of another enemy. If his wife conducts 
herself improperly, he gives her a sound beating. 

On the sea-coast of Borneo fleets of boats may be 
seen laden with provisions brought to market by the 
women, who are screened from the sun by huge 
bamboo hats. These women are small and rather 
pretty. In complexion they are about as dark as 
mulattoes. They walk with a firm step, and turn 
their toes out, which is an unusual thing among the 
oriental nations. Wives are bought, and marriages 

Women of Celebes. 


performed with great ceremony ; generally before 
the bride is eleven years old. Public opinion is by 
no means rigid concerning the character of unmar- 
ried females ; but the subject is viewed differently 
when they have husbands. 

The natives of Celebes are of a light olive com- 
plexion, with glossy black hair, that falls in ringlets 
over the neck and shoulders. Men adorn their hair 
with jewels ; but women merely wear gold chains 
about the neck. They color their nails red, and 
their teeth black, and take great pains to flatten the 
noses of their infants. 

The husband receives no other dowry with his 
wife than the presents she obtains before the cere- 
mony. As soon as the young couple are married, 
they are shut up in an apartment by themselves for 
three days ; a servant brings them necessary food? 
while their friends are entertained with great merri- 
ment by the bride's father. At the end of this time 
they are liberated, receive congratulations, and are 
conducted to their future home. The women of 
Celebes are distinguished for virtue and modesty. 
They take an active part in business, and are fre- 
quently raised to the throne, though the government 
is elective. At public festivals they appear freely 
among men, and those in authority discuss affairs of 
state in their councils. In token of equality, the 
husband and wife always eat from the same dish ; 
he from the right side, and she from the left. The 
wife of the chief of Lipukaski was considered one of 


the first politicians in Celebes. One day she rode 
out among the warriors of her tribe, and upbraiding 
them with tardiness in giving battle, she demanded a 
spear, that she might herself give them an example. 
Stimulated by her reproof, they went forth and 
gained the victory. This woman was said to have 
a countenance expressive of great intelligence and 
firmness. In many parts of the Eastern Archipelago 
women have been intrusted with sovereign power ; 
and it is singular that this occurs most frequently 
where the government is most turbulent. The pas- 
sion for gaming, so common in the other islands, 
prevails in Celebes. Wives, children, and personal 
freedom are often staked, and quarrels arise which 
occasion deadly hostility between families. The 
fine demanded by law is twenty dollars for the 
murder of a man, and thirty for a woman. The 
women of Celebes, and of the other Molucca islands, 
wear hats of prodigious size, six or seven feet in 
diameter. Infants are plentifully rubbed with oil, 
and boys are never nursed longer than a year, from 
the idea that it would injure their understandings. 

In Amboyna, as in almost every part of the East, 
a man purchases a bride by a certain sum of money 
given to the parents. They have an unbounded 
admiration for very young girls, and a great abhor- 
rence of old women. The girls are not often trusted 
away from their mothers ; but courtship is carried 
on by means of nosegays, or plates of fruit, mutually 
exchanged, and arranged in such a manner as to sig- 
nify the various degrees of love or disapprobation. 


In some of the neighboring islands, when a young 
man is too bashful to speak his love, he seizes the 
first opportunity he can find of sitting near the ob- 
ject of his affection, and tying his garment to hers. 
If she allows him to finish the knot, and neither cuts 
nor loosens it, she thereby gives her consent to the 
marriage. If she merely loosens it, he is at liberty 
to try his luck again, at a more propitious moment ; 
but if she cuts it, there is an end of hope. 

The customs of the island of Bali greatly resemble 
those of the Hindoos. Widows sacrifice themselves 
on the funeral pile of their husbands in great num- 
bers. When the king dies, all his wives and mis- 
tresses devote themselves to the flames ; and when 
the queen dies, great numbers of her female slaves 
are stabbed with daggers, and thrown upon the pile. 
This death is considered so honorable that it is ge- 
nerally eagerly contended for ; and if it happen that 
a request to be sacrificed is for any reason refused, it 
is mourned over as an irretrievable disgrace. Indi- 
viduals who have been thus denied, as well as those 
who, being selected, are reluctant to become victims, 
are forever after imprisoned. If they find means to 
Escape, the first person that meets them may dispatch 
them with a dagger, and cast their bodies into the 
streets. At the funeral of the king's son, one of his 
wives, who was very young, asked her father whe- 
ther, as she had been married only three months, it 
was her duty to sacrifice herself. The parent, steeled 
by custom, urged the disgrace she would bring on 
vol, i, 14 


her family, and the poor girl sprung into the flames, 
where she was soon consumed. It seldom happens 
that one of the laboring class devotes herself in this 
way, and the sacred order never do ; but it is almost 
universal in the mercantile and military classes. 

Wives are purchased ; and if a young man cannot 
obtain the requisite sum, he agrees to serve the fa- 
ther or guardian of the damsel, until his labor de- 
frays the debt* When his conduct is very satisfac- 
tory, the parents often remit a portion of his services. 
Divorce is not allowed in Bali. The women of this 
island disfigure their ears by enormously extended 
apertures. They are frank and cheerful in their 
manners, and enjoy a degree of consideration which 
seems remarkable where polygamy prevails. 

The women of Timor have very delicate and 
graceful forms, dark brown complexions, pleasing 
features, and black eyes full of vivacity. They con- 
sider corpulence a very great defect. 

When a new king begins his reign they sacrifice a 
young female slave, adorned with jewels and flowers, 
by exposing her on the water's edge until the croco- 
diles come and devour her. This is done on account 
of a tradition that the royal family descended from 

The natives of this island chew betel and gild 
their front teeth. In general, both men and women 
let the hair flow loosely over their shoulders ; but 
sometimes the wealthy fasten it with golden rings, 
or arrange it in the Grecian style, fastened by gold 


pins with diamond heads, or tortoise-shell combs 
inlaid with gold. They constantly wash their hair 
with lye, and render it glossy with cocoa-nut oil. 
The higher classes of females are seldom seen in 
public. They are distinguished by golden bracelets, 
expensive coral necklaces, and ornaments of copper- 
wire around their arms and ankles. They are some- 
times tattooed with figures representing flowers, made 
with an instrument dipped in indigo. They spend 
their time in frequent bathing, smoking, chewing 
betel, and sleeping, while slaves fan them to keep 
away the insects. Sometimes they amuse them- 
selves by making trifling articles of rice straw, or 
leaves of the pandanus ; but all occupation, except 
light fanciful work, is left to the poorer classes. They 
pay evening visits, drink tea together, and remain 
till late at night, entertained with the dancing and 
singing of slaves, accompanied by the Malay tambou- 
rine and the Chinese tamtam. 

The ladies of Timor are extravagantly fond of 
perfumes. Their dress is impregnated with the 
odor of sandal- wood and gum-benjamin, their beds 
are strewed with fragrant flowers, and they often 
chew small Chinese cakes, highly aromatic, which 
perfume the breath for a long time. They likewise 
wear garlands about their head, neck, and arms. 
Their love-letters are composed of flowers, and betel 
leaves folded in different ways, according to the 
meaning they are intended to convey. When a girl 
bestows a wreath taken from her own person, it is an 
open avowal of affection. 


Very little disgrace is attached to any indiscretions 
committed before marriage. When parents are satis- 
fied with the price offered for a daughter, they cause 
animals to be killed and the entrails consulted for 
omens, before the wedding takes place. The people 
of Timor take as many wives as they can maintain, 
and sometimes sell their children in order to pur- 
chase them. Here, as in Java, girls are considered 
a source of wealth, because at their marriage parents 
are sure to receive a sum of gold, or a certain number 
of cattle. So long as any part of the price remains 
unpaid, they can take back their daughter without 
making restitution, or they may claim her children 
as property. 

The inhabitants of New Guinea are frightfully 
ugly. Their skin is black and rough ; they color 
their hair a fiery red, and dress it like a huge mop. 
Both men and women pass rings, sticks, and pieces 
of bone through their noses, which render it difficult 
for them to breathe. While these savages are loung- 
ing about, or chasing wild hogs, their women cut 
wood, dig vegetables, and make pottery ware. The 
bachelors live in houses by themselves, built apart 
from the other cabins. 

The natives of New Holland are nearly black, and 
but little more comely than their neighbors of New 
Guinea. They go without clothing, and rub them- 
selves with fish oil, as a defence against musquitoes. 
They daub their hair with yellow gum, in order to 


fasten ornaments of feathers, fish-bones, and the tails 
of dogs. Both sexes have the back and arms deeply 
scarred by an operation performed with pieces of 
broken shell. Scarcely any woman has the two 
lower joints of the little finger ; it is not known 
whether this sacrifice is made in mourning for rela- 
tives, or for some other reason. Before a girl is 
given to her husband, her two front teeth are knocked 
out. The lover then throws a kangaroo skin over 
her shoulders, spits in her face several times, marks 
her with painted stripes of different colors, orders her 
to march to his hut with his provision bag, and if 
she does not go fast enough to please him, he gives 
her a few kicks by the way. These savages gene- 
rally steal wives from some tribe with whom they 
are at enmity. As soon as they observe a girl with- 
out any protector near, they rush upon her, stupefy 
her with blows of a club, and drag her through the 
woods with the utmost violence. Her tribe retaliate 
merely by committing a similar outrage. There are 
no wedding ceremonies. These wretched women 
spend much of their time in fishing. They chew 
muscles and cockles, and drop them in the water for 
bait. Their lines are made of fibres of bark, and 
their hooks of mother-of-pearl oyster shells, rubbed 
on stones till they assume the desired shape. They 
commonly beguile the time by singing ; but they 
never dance, though the men spend a great deal of 
their time in that amusement. 

A woman will often be out with two or three chil- 
dren, in a miserable boat, on the very edge of a roll* 


ing surf, that would frighten even an experienced 
mariner. If they have an infant, it lies across the 
mother's lap, without danger of falling ; for while 
employed in fishing, she sits in the bottom of the 
shallow boat, with her knees up to her neck, and 
between the knees and the body her babe lies 

When the New Hollanders are displeased with 
their wives, they spear them or knock them in the 
head. Neither men nor women appeared to have any 
sense of modesty ; but when they found that white 
people, who visited the island, thought it indecent to 
go without clothing, the women grew more reserved, 
and seemed desirous of conforming to their ideas of 

The people of Van Diemen's Land are in a state 
similar to that of New Holland. They rub their 
hair with red ochre, and decorate it with fish-bones 
and teeth. The dull black of their complexions is 
deepened with powder of charcoal. They likewise 
tattoo themselves in lines or points, which rise up in 
tubercles, of the same color as the rest of the skin. 
The women dive into the sea for shell-fish and lob- 
sters, while their husbands sit by a fire cooking and 
eating the choicest morsels they procure ; they like- 
wise hunt game, and cut all the fuel. The men keep 
as many wives as they please, but treat them so 
badly, that they seize every opportunity to run away 
and place themselves under the protection of the 
British sailors, who come there to obtain seals. 


They are much handsomer, and more cleanly, than 
the women of New Holland, and are said to be re- 
markably kind and docile. Toward the sailors, who 
protect them, they are most faithful and affectionate. 
If a storm comes on while their mates are out en- 
gaged in the seal-fishery, these tender-hearted crea- 
tures constantly endeavor to propitiate the Good 
Spirit * with songs, which they accompany with 
graceful and supplicating gestures. They have such 
a dread of returning to the power of their brutal 
husbands, that they are continually afraid the sailors 
will go away and leave them. If they are so un- 
fortunate as to be seized by their tribe, they are 
treated most savagely, and their half European chil- 
dren are thrown into the fire. These children are 
said to be universally and remarkably beautiful. In 
their wild state these women wear little or no cloth- 
ing. Infants sit on the shoulders of the mother, en- 
twining their legs about her neck, and holding hei 
fast by the hair of her head. Being accustomed tc 
this position, they take care of themselves with grea 
dexterity. The women may often be seen at tht 
fishing stations, pursuing their occupation with babe* 
in this apparently dangerous situation- 
Little is known of the interior of the Philippine 
islands. Some of the native tribes who live in the 
mountains, wear only a small apron made of the 
barks of trees. They are said to be friendly, cheer- 
ful, and cleanly, with scrupulous ideas of modesty, 
both in married and unmarried women. They pur- 


chase their wives. The simple bridal ceremony is 
performed by a priestess, who sacrifices an animal on 
the occasion. Manilla, the largest town of these 
islands, is principally occupied by the descendants 
of Spanish and Chinese settlers. They are extremely 
indolent ; sleeping and smoking the whole day. 
Little children learn to smoke before they can run 
alone ; and women are so fond of cigars, that they 
have them a foot long and thick in proportion. 
When they walk out to take the evening air, whole 
parties of them may be seen, elegantly dressed, 
with these great bales of tobacco burning in their 
mouths. They likewise injure their teeth by chew- 
ing beteL 

The island of Loo Choo has been seldom visited 
by Europeans. Captain Hall gives a most delight- 
ful picture of the honesty, kindness, simplicity, and 
politeness of the inhabitants. All his efforts to ob- 
tain a sight of the women of this island were fruit- 
less. The natives guarded them at every step, and 
always sent runners before them, to give indication 
of their approach. Once, at a sudden turning of the 
road, the English officers met two women ; but they 
instantly threw the baskets from their heads, and 
ran into the woods, in the utmost terror. It appears, 
however, that they are not thus scrupulous about 
being seen by their own countrymen ; for by the help 
of a telescope, captain Hall saw them coming from 
the country with baskets on their heads, beating rice 
in wooden mortars, playing with dogs in the midst 


t>f a crowd of people, and washing clothes in the 
river, after the East India fashion, by dipping them 
in the stream, and then beating them on stones. 
Infants are carried across the hip, as in India. The 
natives were unwilling to speak of their women, and 
seemed distressed when questions were asked. One 
of them said they were regarded as inferior beings, 
and not allowed the use of fans, which are consider- 
ed a great luxury in Loo Choo. But their treatment 
of the English boatswain's wife seemed to contradict 
this statement ; for it was not only kind and indul- 
gent in the extreme, but was tinged with something 
of respectful gallantry. On one occasion, a Loo 
Choo lady visited the boatswain's wife, when all the 
men were out of the way. She wore loose floating 
robes, with a girdle tied at the side, and had sandals 
on her feet. She was rather fair, with small dark 
Byes, and shining black hair, fastened in a knot on 
one side of the head. She seemed to be exceedingly 
timid. When captain Hall insisted upon knowing 
why the natives were afraid to let them walk into 
the village, one of the chiefs answered, in broken 
language : " Loo Choo woman see Ingeree man, Loo 
Choo woman cry !" — meaning, " If a Loo Choo wo- 
man should see an Englishman, she would cry." 

The manners and customs in Japan, and the occu- 
pations of different classes, are similar to those of 
China. In economy of time and labor they rival 
even the Chinese ; and unlike them they are scru- 
pulously neat in their habits. There is no end V 


their rules for the ceremonials of behavior. They 
have whole volumes written to teach people how to 
drink a glass of water, how to give or receive a pre- 
sent, how to salute a superior, or an equal, &c. &c. 
Children, being early accustomed to habits of thought-^ 
ful industry and punctilious civility, appear like 
little old men and women, while they are yet infants* 
In this respect they resemble their neighbors of 
China, among whom the boisterous mirth of child- 
hood is a thing almost unknown ; perhaps the whole 
Celestial Empire does not furnish a genuine speci- 
men of a romping girl, or a madcap, roguish boy* 
Implicit obedience to parents and superiors prevails 
in Japan, to as great an extent as in China, 

The houses in these islands are of simple con- 
struction, made of bamboo, with apartments divided 
by movable partitions. The wealthy have a good 
deal of painting, gilding, and rich japaning, about 
their walls and furniture. Their soft floor mats serve 
both for seats and tables, and chop-sticks of ivory or 
wood are used instead of knives and forks. They 
have metal mirrors with handles, to be used at the 
toilet. The fashion of their dress is the same for 
both sexes, and for all classes, from the monarch to 
the poorest subject ; and they say it has remained 
unchanged for two thousand five hundred years. 
They wear long full robes, like night-gowns, with 
sleeves so wide that they almost reach the ground. 
These garments are cut round at the neck, without a 
collar, leaving the throat and a small portion of the 
neck uncovered. The women wear these robes so 


long that they trail on the ground. The garments 
are fastened at the waist with a sash, which the 
married tie in front, and the unmarried behind. La- 
dies of rank often have them made of variegated silk, 
interwoven with flowers of silver or gold. They 
sometimes wear thirty or forty at once ; but they are 
of such delicate texture, that the whole do not weigh 
more than three or four pounds. Their shoes are 
made of rice straw. The Japanese complexion is 
yellow; but women of distinction, being sheltered 
from the sun, are nearly as white as Europeans* 
They appear in public when they please, either at- 
tended by a servant with an umbrella, or rolled along 
in a sort of ornamented wheelbarrow, with an awn- 
ing over it. Whether in doors or out, they always 
have fans in their hands. They have very black 
hair, broad snubby noses, and small oblong eyes, 
which appear to be constantly winking. All ranks 
and ages are remarkable for industry, and it is said 
the women are generally characterized by an exem- 
plary observance of the domestic virtues. The em- 
peror has but one wife, who is styled empress, but 
he has several mistresses, who form a part of the 
royal household, though subordinate to her in 

When a husband accuses his wife of infidelity, and 
she asserts that she is guiltless, her oath is taken 
in writing, and laid on water ; if it swims she is es- 
teemed innocent. This crime, like most others in 
Japan, is punished with death. 


The men of the Aleutian or Fox islands are' glad 
in times of scarcity to barter away a wife for a fish* 
or a leather bottle full of train-oil. Sometimes one 
woman lives with two husbands ; and often leaves a 
second or third to return to the first with all her 
children. These islanders frequently exchange wives 
with each other, and have not the slightest idea of 
any dishonor connected with the infamy of their 
women. Under these circumstances, it is not won- 
derful that the females are destitute of modesty. 

The men of the Fox islands wear frocks neatly 
made of the skins of birds, which look beautifully 
when the variegated feathers glisten in the sunshine. 
The women wear the more homely covering of the 
ice-bear, with the hairy side outward. They deco- 
rate these unwieldy robes with strips of leather,, 
covered with beads, shells, or sea-parrots' bills. The 
wing-bones of the sea-mew furnish them with nee- 
dles, and seals' nerves are used for thread. Rude as 
these implements are, their workmanship is exceed- 
ingly curious and delicate. The women tattoo them- 
selves in such a manner, that they look as if they 
had mustaches. 

The Ainos, or native inhabitants of the Kurile 
islands, are modest even to bashfulness. The men 
are very shy about allowing strangers to hold any 
communication with their wives and daughters. 
Their tattooed hands, swarthy faces, jet black hair 
hanging over their foreheads? and lips stained blue, 


are not much calculated to excite the admiration of 
those accustomed to civilized life. The Ainos, of 
both sexes, are remarkable for the gentleness and 
strict honesty of their characters. 

Asiatic women baking bread. 

Egyptian women bringing water for their conquerors. 


It has been said Egypt was the first nation that 
became civilized, and framed wise laws, by which 
they agreed to be governed* It had reached the 
height of its grandeur, and was beginning to decay, 
while nations which we call ancient were yet in 
their infancy. Moses, the great lawgiver of the 
Jews, is said to have been learned in " all the wis- 
dom of the Egyptians." Thebes, with its hundred 
gates and immense population, was a subject of 
wonder and praise even in the days of Homer. 
Solon and Herodotus, Pythagoras and Plato, tra- 
velled in Egypt to witness her magnificent works of 


art, and gather from the far-famed stores of her in- 
tellectual wealth. 

Such was Egypt, long before Greece and Rome 
had existence I This early civilization might be in 
part owing to the annual overflowing of the Nile, 
which made it impossible for the inhabitants to sub- 
sist by hunting and fishing, and thus compelled them 
to turn their attention to agriculture. During the 
inundation of the river, they were obliged to take 
shelter in houses raised on piles above the reach of 
the waters. Men and women, being thus placed in 
each other's society, naturally endeavored to please 
each other, and female influence produced its usual 
effect of softening the character, and rendering the 
manners more polished and agreeable. From this 
union, music, poetry, and the fine arts would na- 
turally flow, as the stream from its parent fountain. 

It is generally supposed that the Egyptians were 
a colony from Ethiopia, and that their complexion 
was black. Herodotus, who travelled in Egypt, dis- 
tinctly states that they had " black skins and curly 
hair." Speaking of the tradition that two black 
pigeons had flown from Thebes in Egypt, and esta- 
blished oracles, one at Dodona, and the other in Li- 
bya, the same writer says, the story doubtless refers 
to two priestesses stolen by the Phoenicians, and 
carried one into Libya and the other into Greece : he 
adds, " their being black explains to us their Egyptian 
origin." Pausanias likewise informs us that the 
image of the Nile was always black, while the other 
river gods were uniformly represented as white. 


The ancient statues of Memnon and the Sphinx 
afford no evidence with regard to complexion, be- 
cause they are usually painted red ; that being the 
color applied to sacred subjects both in Egypt and 
various parts of India. 

The features, with the exception of the lips, do 
not correspond to the standard of " African features," 
which we have somewhat arrogantly established. In 
point of fact, the various tribes of that vast continent 
differ from each other in appearance as much as the 
Italians and the Norwegians ; and we have taken the 
worst-looking as our standard of " negro features." 
Dr. Richardson says : " The Nubians are perfectly 
black, but without possessing the least of the negro 
feature ; the lips small, the nose aquiline ; the ex- 
pression of the countenance sweet and animated, and 
bearing a strong resemblance to that which is gene- 
rally found portrayed in the temples and tombs of 
the ancient Egyptians." 

A recent traveller tells us, " The Ethiopian women 
brought to Egypt for sale, though black, are extreme- 
ly beautiful ; their features being perfectly regular, 
and their eyes full of fire. The price offered for 
them is generally six or ten times higher than could 
be obtained for Arabian women." 

Herodotus says, the Egyptian women left the ma- 
nagement of the loom to men, while they themselves 
were abroad engaged in commerce ; and that the 
laws required daughters, instead of sons, to support 
indigent parents. Some writers have said that the 
queens of Egypt were much more honored than the 


kings ; and that in the marriage contract husbands 
promised obedience to their wives. 

It seems probable that there was something of ex- 
aggeration in this. Perhaps the opinion had its ori- 
gin in some intentional satire, which was supposed to 
be sober truth. That the Egyptian women enjoyed 
a degree of freedom and importance very uncommon 
in that age of the world, is beyond a doubt. That 
they were not confined to their own apartments is 
evident from the fact that Pharaoh's daughter went 
down to the river with her maidens to bathe. They 
likewise succeeded to the throne, and to the inheri- 
tance of their fathers. When Solomon married the 
daughter of Pharaoh, he built her a magnificent pa- 
lace near his own, and allowed her to worship the 
gods of her own country. As this was in direct op- 
position to the customs and opinions of the Israel- 
ites, there is reason to suppose these peculiar privi- 
leges were stipulated by Egyptians in the marriage 
contract. Her father gave her the whole city of 
Gazer for her portion. 

It is not probable that women of rank were engaged 
in laborious occupations, as was common in other 
countries. When Psammenitus, one of their kings, 
was taken prisoner, he and the chief of his nobility 
were placed on an eminence near the city of Memphis, 
while his own daughter and other captive women 
were ordered to bear water in pitchers from the river ; 
and the monarch is said to have considered this a 
greater disgrace than the loss of his kingdom and his 

vol. i. 15 


But notwithstanding the high respect paid to 
Egyptian women, and the undoubted fact that they 
were largely engaged in commerce and agriculture, 
there are many things to prove that they had not 
such unlimited ascendency as to reverse the usual 
order of things, by governing their husbands, and 
compelling them to do the work within doors. 

The honorable office of the priesthood was entirely 
confined to the men, both in the temples of the god- 
desses and the gods. The mercantile caravans, going 
through rude and warlike places, could not have been 
composed of women. In one of the ancient Egyptian 
mausoleums have been found paintings in bass-relief, 
representing men planning furniture, hewing blocks 
of wood, pressing out skins of wine or oil, ploughing, 
hoeing, and bringing in asses laden with corn to be 
stored in the magazines; there is likewise a group 
of boatmen quarrelling, and a band of musicians play- 
ing on the harp, the flute, and a species of clarionet. 
The only women introduced are a group of dancing 

Nymphodorus remarks that Sesostris obliged the 
men to employ themselves in feminine occupations, 
because his subjects were becoming very numerous, 
and he wished to weaken their characters, in order 
to prevent revolt. In opposition to those writers, 
who attribute such unlimited freedom and influence 
to the Egyptian women, some have asserted that 
they were kept constantly shut up, and their feet 
cramped, according to the present custom of the 


It is probable that these contradictory accounts 
refer to different parts of Egypt ; for the various dis- 
tricts differed so much in their customs, that what 
was worshipped in one was despised and abhorred in 

The superstitions of the Egyptians formed a singu- 
lar contrast with their scientific knowledge. They 
held many animals in religious veneration ; such as 
the ibis, the crocodile, the cat, and the dog. If a cat 
happened to die, the whole family shaved their eye- 
brows in token of sorrow ; and on the death of a dog, 
they shaved the brows and the head. Maximus Ty- 
rius tells the story of an Egyptian woman, who 
brought up a young crocodile. " Her countrymen 
esteemed her particularly fortunate, and considered 
her the nurse of a deity. The woman had a son 
about the same age with the crocodile, and they 
grew up and played together. When the animal 
became large and strong, it devoured the child. The 
woman exulted in the death of her son, and consider- 
ed his fate as blessed in the extreme, in thus becom- 
ing the victim of their domestic god." 

The ancient Egyptians believed the Nile would 
not overflow and fertilize their country, unless an 
annual sacrifice were offered to the deity of the river. 
For this reason, they every year, on the twelfth of 
their month Baoni, (corresponding to our June,) 
threw into the Nile a beautiful maiden, superbly or- 
namented. When Amru conquered Egypt, he abo- 
lished this cruel custom. 

The Egyptians were fond of religious festival 


which they celebrated with music, dancing, feasting, 
and pompous processions. The women on these oc- 
casions were usually decorated with garlands, and 
carried in their hands symbols of the deity they wor- 
shipped. Herodotus, speaking of the famous festival 
of Isis, at Bubastis, says, " During the passage, the 
women strike their tabors, accompanied by the men 
playing on flutes." Yet some writers have affirmed 
that the Egyptians did not allow women to learn 
music, lest it should relax the vigor of their minds. 
This might be true of some districts in Egypt; but 
it is more probable that public exhibitions of music 
were considered beneath the dignity of any but hired 
performers, as public dancing is still considered in 
many parts of the world. 

The Egyptians, in common with other ancient na- 
tions, sanctioned great immodesty at their religious 
festivals ; particularly those of Isis and Bacchus. 
We have no means of ascertaining how far this tend- 
ed to corrupt the manners of their women. Among 
people of rank, birthdays were kept with great gay- 
ety and splendor. 

They were accustomed to seat a veiled skeleton at 
their tables, decorated with a garland of dark-colored 
flowers ; this was intended to remind the guests that 
death was with them, even in the midst of feasting 
and joy. 

The common tendency to invest women with su- 
pernatural powers seems to have existed in Egypt. 
We are told that Athyrte, daughter of Sesostris, en- 
couraged her father to undertake the conquest of the 


World, in consequence of her divinations, dreams m 
the temples, and prodigies she had seen in the air. 
Though women were not admitted to the order of 
hereditary priesthood, they were from time immemo- 
rial selected to perform certain sacred offices in the 
Egyptian temples. It was the duty of these conse- 
crated maidens to gather flowers for the altars, to 
feed the sacred birds, and daily to fill the vases with 
pure fresh water from the Nile. The moon was wor- 
shipped in Egypt as a goddess, under the name of 
Isis ; and it is supposed that these maidens perform- 
ed certain mystic dances in her temple, as the deve* 
dassees of Hindostan now do in the temples of Bra- 
ma. On these solemn occasions, the Egyptian girls 
wore small metallic mirrors under the left breast. 
The origin of the custom is unknown; some have 
supposed it was done that they might at every move- 
ment of their companions behold the reflected image 
of Isis. 

Notwithstanding the prevalence of strange super- 
stitions, it is generally supposed that the knowledge 
of one God, and of the immortality of the soul, were 
taught by Egyptian priests ; and that these truths, 
carried into Greece, were concealed and preserved 
in the Eleusinian mysteries. The early Christians 
were surprised at the frequent appearance of a cross 
among the hieroglyphics of Egypt ; some converted 
priests explained the mystery, by saying it had al- 
ways been considered a symbol of life to come. 

The ancient Egyptians were scrupulously neat* 
They bathed frequently, and washed their garments 


often. It was their custom to drink from brazen 
goblets, which were cleansed every day. In making 
bread, they kneaded the dough with their feet. 

When a person of distinction died, it was custom- 
ary for the females of the family to disfigure their 
heads and faces with dirt, and run about with their 
garments in disorder, beating themselves and making 
loud lamentations. This custom, so common* among 
ancient nations, still prevails in many parts of the 

There was a library at Thebes ; and Homer was 
accused of stealing the Iliad and Odyssey from a 
similar establishment at Memphis. Though this 
accusation bears internal evidence of falsehood, it 
indicates the very ancient date of civilization and 
literature in Egypt. That this taste continued down 
to comparatively modern times appears from the 
celebrated Alexandrian library, established by the 
Ptolemies. The number of volumes is said to have 
almost equalled the largest library of recent times, 
and most of them w T ere written in letters of gold. 

Since the ancient Egyptian women were allowed 
in all other respects such a remarkable degree of 
equality with the men, it is reasonable to conjecture 
that they shared with them in literary acquirements. 

Modern Egypt presents quite a different picture. 
The population is a mixture of Egyptians, Persians, 
Syrians, Greeks, Arabs, and Turks. The men are ig- 
norant, and the women servile. " Each family," says 
Savary, " forms a small state, of which the father is 


king ; the members of it, attached to him by the ties 
of blood, acknowledge and submit to his power. 
When the master of the family dines, the women 
stand, and frequently hold the basin for him to wash, 
serve him at table, and on all occasions behave to 
him with the extremest humility and reverence. 
The women of the wealthier classes spend their time 
principally among their slaves, in works of embroi- 

When a rich man intends to dine with one of his 
wives, he sends a slave to give her notice ; she pre- 
pares the most delicate dishes, and receives him with 
the utmost attention and respect. 

Notwithstanding the general degradation of the 
sex, a virtuous and sensible woman can make herself 
greatly respected, even in degenerate Egypt. " The 
favorite wife of Mohammed Ali possessed an asto- 
nishing degree of influence over her impetuous hus- 
band, who always regarded her as the foundation of 
his good fortune. She was, likewise, much esteemed 
and beloved by the people ; for her power was uni- 
formly exercised on the side of justice and mercy. 
Much of her time was occupied in receiving peti- 
tions ; but she seldom had to refer them to the pacha, 
as her ascendency was too well known by the minis- 
ters to require this last appeal. If, however, in con- 
sequence of any demur on their part, she was obliged 
to apply to him, he answered their remonstrances by 
saying, ' 'T is enough. By my two eyes ! if she re- 
quires it, the thing must be done, be it through fire, 
water, or stone.' " 


The Turkish conquerors have carried into Egypt 
the enervating despotism and luxurious voluptuous- 
ness, which characterize their own land. The favor- 
ite residence of the pacha's harem is at Shoubra, 
three miles below Cairo. In the garden are groves 
of fruit-trees, and walks shaded by evergreens, paved 
with pebbles in mosaic. A most splendid bath is 
inclosed by a quadrangular platform of white sand- 
stone, on which rests a handsome corridor. At each 
corner of the bath is a dressing room, and between 
each of these a magnificent divan, the canopy of 
which is supported by white marble pillars beautiful- 
ly sculptured. In the centre of the bath is a seat for 
the pacha himself, from which he may behold his 
innumerable wives floating in the water around him. 
A highly sculptured gallery extends all around in 
front of the divans, resting upon the heads of four 
large crocodiles of white marble, from whose mouths 
the bath is partly supplied with water. In the cen- 
tre is a grand jet d* eau ; marble vases filled with 
flowers are dispersed about ; and large statues of li- 
ons guard the doors. Water for this enormous bath 
is brought from the Nile by Persian wheels. The 
interior of this palace is rich with gilding, carved 
work, embroidery, and velvet hangings. The dress 
of the pacha's favorites corresponds to the splendor 
of their residence. Some American ladies, who re- 
cently obtained permission to visit his harem, say 
that even the attendants wore head-dresses covered 
with diamonds. 

No glass windows are seen in Egypt, except in a 


few houses built by Christian residents. A very- 
close wooden lattice-work conceals the inmates of 
the house, excludes the air, and gives rather a dismal 
appearance to the streets. The quadrangular court 
in the centre (always formed by the eastern manner 
of arranging the walls of their buildings) is, however, 
open to the breezes, and generally kept wet and cool 
by a fountain playing on marble or stone pavements. 
This, as in other Mohammedan countries, is the 
usual place where the women sit at their weaving 
and embroidery, and are amused by the gambols of 
their children, or the dances of their attendants. 

The Arabs who live in cities keep their wives in 
very close seclusion. In the large towns of Egypt 
these women rarely have more than one apartment, 
in which they eat, drink, and sleep. At night a 
piece of carpet is spread on the floor, and they lie 
down to rest, generally without changing their 
clothes. No male stranger is ever allowed to set his 
foot within the harem, and the ladies are not suffered 
to go out of it without being guarded and screened. 
The Arabs always decorate these bird cages with as 
much gilding, painting, carving, mosaic, and silk 
hangings, as their wealth will possibly allow ; and 
they indulge their captives, to the utmost of their 
power, in rich shawls, muslins, silks, pearls, emeralds, 
and diamonds. In summer the common people often 
sleep on the flat roofs of their dwellings. 

The Egyptian women, beside a large white veil 
over the head, usually wear a black handkerchief tied 
under the eyes and falling below the chin. Two 


sparkling eyes are the only part of the countenance 
that is visible. This, with their long loose robes 
tied up to the throat, gives them a strange spectral 
appearance. In cities many of these figures are 
seen gliding about, selling the embroidered handker- 
chiefs, so much used in the East, as parting presents 
to guests, and to wipe the fingers after eating sweet- 
meats, of which they are universally fond. 

The country girls, closely veiled, are frequently 
employed in selling melons, pomegranates, eggs, 
poultry, &e. Their arms are often tattooed in fan- 
ciful patterns, and sometimes their faces are disfi- 
gured in the same way. It is a general custom to 
stain the eyebrows black and the fingers red. 

Everywhere on the banks of the Nile, the poorer 
sort of women may be seen bringing up water from 
the river, in pitchers on their heads, or shoulders. 
In consequence of this habit, their motions are uni- 
versally firm, well balanced, and graceful. 

The Syrian women who reside in Egypt retain 
the customs of their country, and of course have 
more freedom than the Mohammedans. They sel- 
dom if ever go into the public streets without veils ; 
but at home they eat and drink with their husbands, 
and are introduced to their guests. Even the 
wealthiest personally assist in the domestic occupa- 
tions of the family, and hand refreshments and em- 
broidered handkerchiefs to their visiters. The Sy- 
rian women are said to be generally distinguished 
by the peculiar beauty of their hands and arms. 

A great number of slaves, of all colors and shades, 


are sold in Egypt ; and these scenes are charac- 
terized by all the brutal and disgusting particulars 
which must necessarily everywhere attend the sale 
of human beings. When the French army left 
Egypt, shameful transactions were witnessed upon 
the quay at Rosetta. The French were busily em- 
ployed in selling to the British troops the women 
who had lived with them during their stay in the 
country. Several of the English soldiers bought 
very pretty girls for one dollar each. These scenes 
occurred between two Christian nations ! 

There are public dancers in Egypt, of a character 
similar to those in India, but said to have less skill 
and grace. One of their most common dances at 
weddings, and other entertainments, is very similar 
to the Spanish fandango, but abundantly more in- 

After three o'clock in the day the women have the 
public baths to themselves ; and here, as in Turkey, 
they are a favorite place of resort. Those Egyptians 
who have not private baths, often hire one of the 
public ones for an entire day, and indulge themselves 
in the luxury of taking with them their dinners, 
women, dancers, and story-tellers. With regard to 
a change of garments, the Egyptians are very un- 

The marriage ceremonies are like those of Turkey. 

The Egyptian women often wear amber or glass 
beads on the right wrist, and the left is almost al- 
ways encircled with a brass twist. Sometimes they 


have bracelets above the elbow, with rings on the 
fingers and thumb. 

As you go south, the swarthy complexion of the 
people becomes darker. In Upper Egypt (the site 
of ancient Egypt) the inhabitants are quite black. 
The women are tall, slim, erect, and generally well 
formed. They have very perfect teeth ; but the 
mouth is distorted by the custom of making the 
under lip project, and coloring it blue. Their hair 
generally hangs in braids all round the head, those 
on the forehead being shorter. Their dress, orna- 
ments, and occupations, are similar to those in other 
parts of Egypt, excepting that they do not wear 
veils. They are very modest, but have such simpli- 
city of manners, that they nurse their babes before 
travellers without any consciousness of impropriety. 
Their dances are rapid and vigorous, mixed with 
undulating motions, as they from time to time bend 
towards their partners. Both sexes are extremely 
fond of this amusement, and their performances are 
said to be far from ungraceful. 

In some remote and poor villages of Egypt the 
people are more barbarous ; the women grease their 
hair, wear rings in their nostrils, and strips of black 
leather for bracelets. 

While Tyre was in its greatest prosperity, the 
capital of wealthy and proud Phoenicia, Pygmalion, 
the king, had a sister Eliza, generally known by 
the name of Dido. She married one of her royal 
relatives, named Sichaeus, whom her brother put to 


death, in order to obtain possession of his immense 
fortune. Dido privately eloped with the most valu- 
able of her husband's effects, and after many disas- 
ters arrived at the northern part of Africa, near the 
place where Tunis now stands. Here she settled a 
colony, and built a city, called Carthage, which in 
the Phoenician language signified the New City. 
What Virgil relates of this queen is a fiction. She 
is supposed to have lived at least two hundred years 
before iEneas. Having bound herself by a solemn 
oath never to marry a second husband, she refused 
the offers of Jarbas, king of Getulia, who threat- 
ened to make war upon her colony, if she persisted 
in her resolution. Regarding her vow as sacred, 
and being unwilling to bring trouble upon her sub- 
jects, she caused a funeral pile to be kindled, into 
which she leaped and died. 

History gives no information concerning the treat- 
ment of females in Carthagenia: a nation which 
owed its existence to a woman, who during her life- 
time governed them with wisdom, and died to avoid 
involving them in danger, certainly ought to have 
regarded them with respect and tenderness. This is 
in some degree implied by the fact that when Tyre 
was besieged by Alexander, the Carthagenians, una- 
ble to assist them because they themselves were at 
war, offered to receive all the Tyrian women and 
children within their walls. 

The conduct of Carthagenian women, during the 
invasion of Scipio, proves that they could not have 
been in a very degraded state. They not only 


freely gave all their jewels for the public service, but 
they labored hard in erecting fortifications, and both 
maidens and matrons shaved their heads, that their 
hair might be used for cordage. And when at last 
there was no alternative but to yield to the conquer- 
or or perish, the wife of Asdrubal, the Carthagenian 
general, reproached him for his cowardice in suppli- 
cating mercy from the enemy, and seizing her infant 
children, rushed into the flames of the temple of Es- 
culapius, which she herself had kindled. 

The inhabitants of the Barbary states and the 
neighboring deserts are descendants of the Arabs, 
known by the general name of Moors. Their man- 
ner of building is nearly the same that has prevailed 
in Syrian and Arabian cities from the earliest ages. 
Their houses have flat terraced roofs, sheltered courts 
with fountains in the midst, large doors, and spacious 
chambers. One small latticed window looks into the 
street ; the others open into the private court. The 
latticed window is for the convenience of women on 
the occasion of great festivals. At such times both 
the inside and outside of the houses are much 
adorned, and the women show themselves in their 
best apparel. The same custom seems to be alluded 
to in Scripture, where we are told that when Jehu 
came to Jezreel, " Jezebel heard of it ; and painted 
her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a 

On the occasion of a wedding, or any other great 
domestic ceremony, the company are received in the 


open court, which is strewed with mats and carpets 
for their reception. In summer these courts are 
screened from the sun by means of an awning drawn 
up with ropes, like the covering of a tent. The 
large chambers are generally entirely separated ; 
each wife having her own apartment. Sometimes, 
when married children continue to reside with their 
parents, one room serves for a whole family. At the 
end of each chamber there is a little gallery raised a 
few feet above the floor, with steps leading to it. 
Here they place their beds ; a custom which explains 
the Scripture phrases, " go up unto thy bed," and 
" come down from thy bed." 

The wealthy have their walls hung with velvet 
and damask of various colors, the ceiling richly 
gilded, or painted in arabesques, and the floor paved 
with painted tiles. 

Linen, flax, figs, and raisins, are dried on the ter- 
raced roofs, which are guarded by a balustrade, or 
lattice work. On these roofs they likewise enjoy 
the cool breezes of evening, and when the weather 
is very warm they sleep there. 

The dwellings of the poor are constructed merely 
of palm branches, plastered with mud and clay, 
which in case of a shower sometimes dissolves and 
tumbles in pieces. The wandering tribes, called 
Arabs, live in tents, and have habits similar to the 

The hills and valleys about Algiers are ornamented 
with pretty gardens and country-seats, where the 
wealthy inhabitants retire during the summer sea- 


son. These gardens are well stocked with vegeta- 
bles and fruit, and the rivulets afford au abundant 
supply of excellent water. 

Young children go entirely without clothing. The 
women wear a long wide robe, generally blue, with- 
out sleeves, and modestly high in the neck. Another 
piece of cloth, usually of a different color, is thrown 
over the shoulders, like a mantle. Some wear san- 
dals, others European slippers, either of red or yellow 
morocco. In passing over the hot sands of the de- 
sert, they sometimes wear high wooden clogs, which 
raise them several inches above the ground, similar 
to those used to protect the feet on entering the hot- 
test rooms of the eastern baths. The long ample 
drawers worn by girls are of striped linen or silk, 
and sometimes embroidered with divers colors. 
When women appear in public they muffle them- 
selves up in large mantles or blankets, called hykes, 
and veil themselves so that nothing can be seen but 
their eyes. Like other Arabs, they stain their eye- 
brows with powder of antimony, and sometimes 
paint a spot on the forehead, the chin, and one 
cheek ; a circle round the eyes, in red or black, is 
likewise considered becoming. In the country they 
often go abroad without being veiled ; but if they 
see a stranger approach they hastily screen their 
faces. Their hair is generally long and intensely 
black. They plait it in several tresses, and adorn it 
with ribbons, with glass, amber, or coral beads, and 
sometimes with shells. Sometimes two of these 
tresses are tied over the bosom, while the others fall 


over the shoulders, nearly to the ground ; at other 
times the braids are arranged in a very becoming 
manner on the top of the head. The latter fashion 
forms a species of crown, over which elderly women 
wrap a piece of blue or white cloth, which crosses 
under the chin, and is tied behind. They may be 
often seen carrying on their heads large leathern 
bags, containing clothes, provisions, &c. 

The Moorish women have generally bright spark- 
ling black eyes, and handsome features. Those who 
are engaged in laborious occupations become swar- 
thy ; but ladies secluded from the influence of the 
sun often have delicate complexions. The higher 
classes in Tunis are particularly spoken of as hand- 
some in their persons and elegant in dress ; they 
often wear robes of the richest silk, adorned with 
gold buttons, lace, and embroidery. 

The Moorish ladies have generally a great passion 

for ornament. They decorate their persons with 

heavy gold ear-rings ; necklaces of amber, coral, and 

gold ; gold bracelets ; gold chains and silver bells 

for the ankles ; rings on the fingers ; silver cords 

around the head, with silver rings hanging pendent 

to the shoulder ; and around the waist, under their 

garments, they wear ten or twelve strings of glass or 

crystal beads, which jingle as they walk. The 

poorer class in Fezzan wear glass beads around the 

head, and curl the hair in large ringlets, into which 

they stufFa kind of paste made of lavender, cloves, 

pepper, mastich, and laurel leaves mixed up with 

oil. Men are proud of having their wives hand- 


somely dressed, because it is an indication of their 
own wealth and importance. Dr. Shaw says the 
Barbary women are so partial to the small mirrors 
which they wear about their necks, that " they will 
not lay them aside even when, after the drudgery of 
the day, they are obliged to go two or three miles, 
with a pitcher or goat-skin, to fetch water." 

The want of water in many places prevents them 
from washing their garments so often as is necessary 
for cleanliness. They anoint themselves with ran- 
cid butter, in order to keep off musquitoes and other 

When engaged in the house at work, the Barbary 
matrons not only lay aside their hykes and tunics, 
but even their drawers, wearing merely a cloth 
wrapped around them. 

The women weave a coarse kind of cloth for the 
tent-coverings, made of goats' or camels' hair. It is 
woven in broad stripes, impervious to the rain. One 
of their principal occupations is the manufacture of 
the hykes or blankets, universally worn both by men 
and women. They have no looms, or shuttles. The 
warp is fastened to a peg in the ground, and the 
woof carried through with their fingers. They make 
butter in a goat-skin exposed to the sun. The Bar- 
bary cows give very little milk, but the sheep and 
goats are both useful for the purposes of the dairy. 
When the women make cheese, they separate the 
curd from the whey with the flowers of the great- 
headed thistle, or wild artichoke. The curds are 
put into small baskets made of rushes, or dwarf- 

Moorish women. 2Sf 

palm, bound up close, and pressed. These cheeses sel- 
dom weigh more than two or three pounds. In the 
morning, the children and slaves are sent out to tend 
the cattle, and do not return until nightfall; the 
women in the mean time are engaged in their nume- 
rous household occupations, and not unfrequently 
work in the fields, and collect wood for cooking. 
When the tribes find it necessary to travel, the 
slaves drive the cattle, and the women take care of 
the dromedaries, while the men, mounted and armed, 
form a van-guard to protect the troop. The wives 
and daughters of the wealthy sit cross-legged on a 
small round concave saddle, placed on the back of a 
dromedary, and generally screened from the sun by 
a slight awning. The Barbary ox, a strong docile 
animal, with a large hump above the shoulders, is 
likewise much used for riding. 

The Moors are indolent to excess. They lie 
whole days upon their mats sleeping and smoking? 
while the women and slaves perform all the labor. 
Owing to their uncleanly habits, they are much in- 
fested with vermin ; and as they consider it beneath 
their own dignity to remove this annoyance, the task 
is imposed upon the women. They are very impa- 
tient and tyrannical, and for the slightest offence 
beat their wives most cruelly. The women, far 
from thinking a sound drubbing any disgrace, are 
rather disposed to regard it as a sign that their lords 
and masters consider them of some importance ; but 
they are extremely mortified if the husband makes 
any complaint to relations. The Moors, like other 


Mohammedans, regard women as a very inferior 
race, created to serve them with unconditional sub- 
mission. Wives are obliged to stand and wait upon 
their husbands while they are eating, and must be 
content with whatever food the men choose to leave. 
When a European expressed his surprise at such 
customs, they answered, " Why should such inferior 
creatures be allowed to eat and drink with us ? If 
they commit faults, why should they not be beaten ? 
They were made to bring us children, pound our 
rice, make our oil, and do our drudgery ; these are 
the only purposes to which their degraded natures 
are adapted." 

Precisely the same arguments for abusing the 
defenceless are urged by Christian slave-owners ! 
Among the Moors, masters and their Mohammedan 
slaves eat together ; but if the slave be a Christian, 
he must eat by himself, and even the women and 
children will not touch the food he leaves. Illiberal 
and barbarous as this custom appears to us, they no 
doubt would regard as still more absurd the customs 
of the United States, which render it an abomination 
for two people of different complexions to eat at the 
same table. Their own superstitious abhorrence is 
inculcated by the Mohammedan creed, which they 
regard as sacred ; but our prejudice is in direct op- 
position to the maxims of that religion, which we 
profess to reverence. In this respect, we must yield 
to the Algerine in point of sincerity and consistency. 

Moorish daughters receive no portion of their fa- 
ther's property, and have no dowry at the time of 


their marriage. When a man dies, his wife takes 
her young children and goes to live with her mo- 
ther. The daughters are dependent on their elder 
brother. If the children are quite young, the chief 
of the tribe takes possession of the property, until 
the boys are old enough to have it divided among 
them. If there is no male child, the brother of the 
deceased is his heir. 

The Moorish women, like the men, are exceeding- 
ly ignorant, covetous, and gluttonous ; but they are 
not, like them, universally licentious ; for they are 
taught that virtuous wives will become celestial 
beauties in another world, while all who fail in this 
duty will be forever annihilated. An unfaithful wife 
is punished with immediate death. A man has as 
many wives and female slaves as he can maintain. 

Although the inhabitants of Fezzan are Moham- 
medans, their women are seen a great deal in public, 
and are remarkable for wanton manners. Some of 
the customs of the Moors seem at variance with their 
habitual contempt of women. The wives of chiefs 
are always appointed to conduct negotiations for 
peace ; and a feminine voice of entreaty will arrest 
the uplifted scimetar just ready to fall on the head 
of an enemy. In common with the Bedouins, they 
consider the female apartments as a sanctuary, which 
protects even the murderer. In some tribes, where 
the women never appear before the men, the crimi- 
nal, if he gets within hearing of their dwellings, calls 
out, " I am under the protection of the harem I" The 
inmates, without showing themselves, cry aloud* 


" Fly from him ! Fly from him !" and even if the 
man were condemned to death by the prince himself, 
he is from that moment free to go where he pleases. 

It would be considered a great breach of politeness 
for a Moor to enter his neighbor's tent. If he wishes 
to see him, he calls him out ; and the wife, hearing 
his voice, immediately veils herself. It would like- 
wise be improper for a husband, when he entered the 
female apartments, to recline upon the mat which 
his wife was accustomed to use. 

The Mongearts are an agricultural tribe, less in- 
telligent, and more mild, than their neighbors. Their 
wives perform the greater part of the labor, but are 
not treated with so much harshness as among the 
other tribes. They have a simple method of prevent- 
ing disputes when they divide the spoils taken in war 
or hunting. They separate the booty into as many 
lots as there are men ; then each one puts some arti- 
cle into a bag, which is well shaken up, and the first 
woman or child they see, is called upon to take an 
article out of the bag, and lay it upon one of the lots. 
Each one recognizes what he put into the bag, and 
is obliged to rest satisfied with the lot on which it 
happens to be placed. 

The Monselemines are said to be even more ava- 
ricious than other Moors. Every thing with them is 
settled by money. Among the other tribes, if a Mo- 
hammedan woman were known to have a Christian 
lover, she would be killed, and the man must change 
his religion to avoid death; but the Monselemines 
throw the woman into the sea, and allow the Christian 


to atone for his crime with money. The talbes, or 
Moorish priests, take as many wives as they can sup- 
port. The women, as in other Mohammedan coun- 
tries, do not go to the mosques, but perform their devo- 
tions at home, with their faces turned toward the east. 

The Moors have extraordinary ideas concerning 
female beauty. They fancy an oily skin, teeth pro- 
jecting beyond the lips, pointed nails an inch long, 
and a figure so corpulent, that two persons putting 
their arms around the waist could scarcely make 
their fingers touch. A woman of moderate preten- 
sions to beauty needs a slave under each arm to sup- 
port her as she walks ; and a perfect belle carries 
weight enough to load a camel. Mothers are so 
anxious to have their daughters attain this unwieldy 
size, that they make them eat a great quantity of 
kouskous^ and drink several bowls of camel's milk 
every day. Mungo Park says he has seen a poor 
girl sit crying for more than an hour with the bowl 
at her lips, while her mother stood over her with a 
stick, and beat her whenever she perceived she was 
not swallowing. 

Still there are some girls of fourteen or fifteen, who 
have what Europeans would consider a very grace- 
ful shape, with a fine glow of health flushing their 
brown cheeks. Their teeth are regular, and always 
very white, owing to the constant practice of rubbing 
them with a little stick of tamarind wood. 

The Moors marry at a very early age. Wives 

* A kind of pudding made of millelt. 


are always purchased; and the father of the girl 
cannot refuse an offer, unless there is some stain up- 
on the young man's character. The bridal tent is 
adorned with a small white flag, and the bridegroom's 
brow is encircled with a fillet of the same color. 
The bride is conducted to the tent by her parents, 
where her lover presents her with garments and jew- 
els, according to his wealth. A grand entertainment 
is given, and the young women dance all day to the 
sound of instruments, while the spectators regulate 
their motions by clapping hands. These dances are 
not very decorous. 

The next day the young wife is bathed by her fe- 
male relations, who braid her hair, stain her nails 
red, and put on a new dress. She visits in the camp 
all day, and in the evening is conducted back to her 
husband's tent. If her father be destitute, his son-in- 
law generally assists him with a willing heart ; and 
if the bridegroom be poor, her father does all he can 
to enable him to increase his flocks and herds. If a 
wife does not become the mother of a boy, she may 
be divorced with consent of the elders of the tribe, 
which is always granted ; in this case she is at liber- 
ty to marry again. The mother of many sons is 
held in the highest respect, and is never suffered to 
perform any menial office. If a woman is very un- 
happy with her husband, she goes back to her pa- 
rents ; and though he may try to persuade her to 
live with him again, he cannot compel her to do it. 
If she persist in her dislike, she is even at liberty to 
marry another. But if she has a child, especially if 


it be a boy, this permission is not granted ; should 
she stay with her parents more than eight days, un- 
der such circumstances, she would be liable to be 
put to death. Women do not take the name of their 
husbands, but always retain the one they received in 
infancy. The birth of a son is attended with the 
greatest rejoicings. The mother, by way of express- 
ing her delight, blackens her face, for the space of 
forty days. On the birth of a girl, she blackens 
only half her face, for twenty days. 

When a Moor sets out on a journey, his wife fol 
lows him about twenty paces from the dwelling ; she 
then throws after him the stone used to drive the 
tent-pegs into the ground, and wherever it stops, she 
buries it until his return. 

The Moors, like their Arab brethren, are exceed 
ingly hospitable. A traveller is always sure of some 
refreshment, for his host would rather go without 
food himself than refuse it to a guest. If the master 
be absent, his wife, or slave, goes out to meet the 
stranger, asks him to stop at twenty paces from the 
tent, brings milk for him to drink, sees that his ca- 
mels are unloaded, and furnishes him with mats and 
awnings to erect a temporary shelter for himself. If 
the guest be a man of rank, or one who has friends 
in the tribe, a sheep or an ox is killed in honor of his 
arrival. The wife cooks the meat, separating the 
fat, which is served up raw. The visiter's share is 
placed on a small mat, carried by a slave, but always 
handed to him by the master himself, if he be at 


The Moors plunder all travellers except those who 
are protected by the sacred rites of hospitality. Even 
the law authorizes theft in the night time ; and on 
this account the women are very careful to convey 
into the tents every article of property before dark. 

One of the greatest pleasures of Moorish women 
consists in visiting each other. Politeness requires 
that the guest should dress the provisions, make the 
butter, and cook the dinner, while her hostess enter- 
tains her with details of family affairs, and all the 
scandal and gossip of the tribe. On these occasions 
an unusual quantity of food is provided, and the mas- 
ter invites his neighbors to the repast. The more 
cooking the visiter has to do, the more she feels 

At funerals, the women howl and lament ; a prac- 
tice they continue at intervals, from the moment of 
decease till they return from the grave where their 
relative or friend has been deposited. 

The Moors continually go out on predatory excur- 
sions to seize the negroes for slaves, to supply the 
insatiable market produced by Christian pride and 
avarice. Sometimes they lie in ambush round a 
village for days together, and when the helpless wo- 
men and children come to the springs to get water, 
they seize them and carry them off. They place 
their captives behind them on horseback, holding one 
of their fingers between their teeth, ready to bite it 
off, if they give the least alarm. 

Sometimes they set fire to a village at midnight, 
and seize the poor wretches .that try to escape from 


the flames. The negroes have strong local attach- 
ments, and on such occasions the most agonizing 
scenes frequently occur. 

The wives of wealthy Moorish chiefs have black 
female slaves, to whom they transfer all the toil, 
while they loll upon mats, smoking their pipes all 
day long. The poor slaves, who are treated with 
the utmost haughtiness and rigor, try to anticipate 
the slightest wish of their indolent mistresses. Some- 
times they carry their attention so far, as to pick up 
every stone or stick, that might annoy the feet of 
these walking flesh mountains. 

If a Moor has a son by any of his black slaves, 
the girl is much better treated than before ; her child 
shares equal privileges with the other children, and 
is acknowledged as a free fellow-citizen like them- 
selves. In this respect Christian slave-owners might 
learn a useful lesson from the ignorant Moslem, 

The dwellings of negroes are generally huts made 
of the branches of trees and thatched with palmetto* 
The king's residence usually consists of a number 
of these huts surrounded by a clay wall. Each wife 
has a separate building, sometimes divided from the 
apartments of the men by a slight bamboo fence. 
Some of the African huts are very prettily painted, 
or stained, and the walls adorned with curious straw 
work. The Ashantees display a considerable de- 
gree of taste and even elegance in their architecture. 
Their houses and door-posts are elaborately carved 


with representations of warlike processions, and ser- 
pents seizing their prey. 

The various African tribes differ as much in per- 
sonal appearance as the inhabitants of the numerous 
Asiatic kingdoms. The Pulahs, or Fulahs, of Bondu, 
between the Senegal and Gambia, are copper-colored, 
and have long hair. Some of them are black, though 
less so than many tribes. Their women are slender 
and graceful, with languishing eyes, and soft voices. 
The Wolofs are tall and well-shaped, with promi- 
nent and rather aquiline noses, lips not very thick, 
black complexions, uncommonly sweet voices, and a 
very frank, mild expression of countenance. This 
tribe is considered the handsomest in Africa. A 
people called Laobehs, whose manners bear a great 
resemblance to those of the gypsies, are intermixed 
with the Wolofs, but have no fixed residence. They 
select some well-wooded spot, where they fell a few 
trees, form huts with the branches, and work up the 
trunks into mortars, and other wooden vessels. The 
women pretend to tell fortunes ; and though short, 
ugly, and sluttish, they are much sought as wives, 
on account of a superstition that such connections 
bring good luck. The Laobehs possess no animals 
but asses, on which they travel during their frequent 
peregrinations. Groups of these men and women 
may often be seen squatting round a fire, smoking 
and talking. 

The color of the Mandingoes is black intermixed 
with yellow. They have regular features, with a 
frank, intelligent expression. The women are al- 


most "universally well-shaped and handsome. The 
inhabitants of Bambara are not so black as the Wo- 
lofs, but have no pretensions to beauty. They have 
round heads, very closely curled hair, coarse features, 
flat noses, thick lips, high cheek-bones, and bandy 
legs. The inhabitants of Bornou, Mozambique, and 
Southern Guinea, bear a great resemblance to those 
of Bambarra. The Congoese have European fea- 
tures, bright eyes, and black complexions. The 
KafTers, or Caffres, have likewise the European con- 
formation of head and features ; their complexion is 
glossy black, their eyes large and sparkling, their 
teeth are beautifully white and regular, and the expres- 
sion of their countenances bright and good-humored. 
Travellers all agree in describing the men as uncom- 
monly noble and majestic figures. The women are 
of lower stature, rather muscular than graceful ; but 
many of them have very handsome faces. 

The African women wear two long strips of cotton 
cloth, either blue or white. One is tied round the 
waist and falls below the knees ; the other is worn 
over the shoulders like a mantle. The latter gar- 
ment is generally thrown aside when they are at 
work. The upper part of the person is almost uni- 
versally exposed. The wealthy sometimes wear a 
kind of robe without sleeves, under their pagnes, or 
mantles. Mungo Park speaks of seeing women in 
Bondou, who wore a thin kind of gauze, called byqui, 
which displayed their shape to the utmost advan- 
tage. Sandals are sometimes worn, but they more 
frequently go barefoot. Women of the island of St 


Louis, who are generally handsome, and many of 
them fair, by frequent intermarriages with Europe- 
ans, wear a long garment of striped cotton fastened 
at the waist, with another four or five yards in length 
thrown over the shoulders in the antique style. 
Striped cloth is twisted . round the head, so as to 
form a high turban. Their slippers are usually of 
red, yellow, or green morocco, and they are seldom 
without golden ear-rings, necklaces, and bracelets. 

The Kaffer women wear a cloak made of leopard 
or calf skins, dressed in such a manner as to be ex- 
ceedingly soft and pliant. This garment, which is 
worn over the shoulders, and conceals all the upper 
part of the person, is never laid aside except in the 
very hottest weather. They wear no other clothing 
but a small apron. It is a singular fact that the 
Kaffer men care much more about ornaments than 
the women. Almost every individual wears neckla- 
ces of beads, or polished bone, with several ivory 
bracelets about his arms and ankles. Those who 
can afford it have wreaths of copper beads around 
their heads, from which brass chains are suspended. 
The women, on the contrary, seldom wear any other 
ornament than a row of beads, or small shells, around 
the edges of their aprons. Females of the royal 
family sometimes have a few brass buttons on their 
cloaks, and beads or shells on the skin caps they 
wear in cold weather. The other African women 
are very fond of ornaments. They decorate their 
heads with coral beads, sea-shells, and grains of gold 
and silver. Sometimes a small plate of gold is worn 


in the middle of the forehead. The gold dust, which 
they collect, is kept in quills, stopped with cotton ; 
and these are frequently displayed in the hair. Some- 
times strips of linen are stretched upon a stick, so 
as to form a turban in the shape of a sugar loaf, the 
top of which is covered with a colored handkerchief. 
In some places the hair is raised high by means of a 
pad, and decorated with an expensive species of coral 
brought from the Red sea. Among some tribes the 
women twist their woolly locks around straws greas- 
ed with butter ; and when the straws are drawn out, 
the hair remains curled in small tufts. This process 
requires a whole day. A more neat and simple style, 
is to braid the hair in several tresses, made to meet on 
the top of the head. Almost all the Africans grease 
their heads and anoint their bodies ; a custom said to 
be necessary to prevent cutaneous diseases, and the 
attacks of insects, in warm climates. Tattooing is 
very common, and almost every tribe has a style pe- 
culiarly its own. The gold ornaments worn in Afri- 
ca are generally very massive. The heavy ear-rings 
sometimes lacerate the ear , to avoid which they are 
often supported by a band of red leather, passing over 
the head from one ear to the other. The necklaces 
and bracelets are sometimes of gold fillagree work, 
very ingeniously wrought. Daughters of rich fami- 
lies wear a necklace of coral, intermixed with gold 
and silver beads, which crosses below the breast, and 
is fastened behind, under the shoulders. The skins 
of sharks, or strings of beads as large as a pigeon's 
egg, are sometimes worn around the waist, and small- 


er beads decorate the ankles. In Bornou, they fre v 
quently wear a piece of coral, ivory, or polished 
oyster-shell thrust through the nose. African teeth 
are universally very white and regular. They are 
continually rubbed with a small stick of tamarind- 
wood, which they hold between their lips like a tooth- 
pick. Some tribes on the banks of the Gambia file 
their teeth to a sharp point. Mollien is, I believe, 
the only writer who speaks of veils worn by any ex- 
cept the Moorish ladies. He thus describes the sis- 
ter and niece of a marabout^ who was his guide : 
" They had oval faces, fine features, elegant figures, 
and a skin as black as jet. I was charmed with the 
modesty of these women ; whenever I looked at them 
they cast down their eyes, and covered their faces 
with their muslin veils." 

The inhabitants of Madagascar are tall, well pro- 
portioned, and of a very dark olive complexion. The 
women wear long robes reaching to the feet, over 
which is a straight tunic, that covers the upper part 
of the person. 

The African women make butter by stirring the 
cream violently in a large calabash, or shaking it in 
skins, after the Arab fashion. In the forests of 
Bambarra is a tree called shea, from the kernel of 
which, when boiled in water, a species of vegetable 
butter is produced. The women put it down in 
earthen pots, and preserve it for a long time. Mun- 
go Park says : " Besides the advantage of keeping a 

* A black Mohammedan priest. 


whole year without salt, it is whiter, firmer, and to 
my palate of a richer flavor, than the best butter I 
ever tasted made of cow's milk." 

Cheese is never made in the interior of Africa. 
They give as a reason for it, the heat of the climate, 
and the great scarcity of salt. 

When the planting season arrives, women dig 
small holes in the ground, into each of which they 
drop three grains of millet, and cover it with their 
feet. This simple process is sufficient in a country 
where the soil yields almost spontaneously. When 
the grain is nearly ripe, they erect tall platforms on 
poles, where the women and children are stationed 
by turns to frighten away the birds, by uttering loud 
cries. If the birds become so much accustomed to 
the noise as to disregard it, they bind a handful of 
leaves or straw around each ear of millet, to prevent 
their depredations. 

Grain, instead of being threshed, is pounded in a 
mortar, and the chaff blown away. Mortars are used 
to prepare it for cooking, except in Abyssinia, where 
a daily supply of corn is ground in small hand-mills. 

The African women separate the seeds from cot- 
ton by rolling it with a thick iron spindle ; and in- 
stead of carding it, beat it violently on a close mat. 
In spinning, they use the distaff in preference to the 
wheel. Throughout the country they may be seen 
seated on a mat in front of their huts, engaged in 
this old-fashioned employment. Weaving is gene- 
rally done by men. The women make nets and sails 
for their husbands, and cut and sew their garments 
yol. I. 17 


with needles of native manufacture. They likewise 
dye cloth of a rich and permanent blue, with a fine 
purple gloss ; these cloths are beautifully glazed. In 
the manufacture of common earthen vessels for do- 
mestic use, the women are as skilful as the men. A 
good deal of care is required to prepare the manioc, 
which forms a great article of food. This root is 
ground in a mill, and dried in small furnaces, before 
it can be used as flour. Mats, both for the table and 
for seats, are woven very firmly and neatly ; hats and 
baskets are likewise very tastefully made of rushes 
stained with different colors ; and the gourds from 
which they drink are often prettily ornamented with 
a sort of bamboo work, dyed in a similar manner. 

The Kaffer women make baskets of a strong reedy 
grass, the workmanship of which is so clever that 
they will contain water. At Sackatoo, Mr. Clapper- 
ton met a troop of African girls drawing water from 
the gushing rocks. He says : " I asked them for 
drink. Bending gracefully on one knee, and dis- 
playing at the same time teeth of pearly whiteness, 
and eyes of the blackest lustre, they presented a 
gourd, and appeared highly delighted when I thank- 
ed them for their civility ; remarking to one another, 
1 Did you hear the white man thank me V " 

Here, as in Asia, the women generally act as por- 
ters, carrying large burdens on the head. Some- 
times they may be seen sitting on mats by the road- 
side, selling potatoes, beans, and small bits of roasted 
meat, to travellers. 

Men and women are both employed in digging 


and washing gold for the Moorish markets. Small 
shells, called cowries, constitute the general currency 
of Africa. All payments from the king's household 
are made in branches containing two thousand cow- 
ries each. The women pierce and string these, de- 
ducting one-fortieth part as their own perquisite. 
Four hundred and eighty of these shells are equiva- 
lent to a shilling^. The Africans are said to manifest 
a most extraordinary facility in reckoning the large 
sums exchanged for articles of merchandise. Euro- 
peans have been much surprised at this, being them- 
selves unable to calculate so rapidly without the use 
of figures. 

The wives of the king of Dahomey, generally to 
the number of three thousand, are formed into a regi- 
ment, part of which act as his body-guard, equipped 
with bows, arrows, drums, and sometimes muskets. 
They are regularly trained to the use of arms, and 
go through their evolutions with as much expertness 
as any other of his majesty's soldiers. 

Captain Clapperton thus describes a visit he re- 
ceived from the king of Kiama : " Six young girls, 
without any apparel, except a fillet on the forehead, 
and a string of beads round the waist, carrying each 
three light spears, ran by the side of his horse, keep- 
ing pace with it at full gallop. Their light forms, the 
vivacity of their eyes, and the ease with which they 
seemed to fly over the ground, made them appear 
something more than mortal. On the kind's entrance 
they laid down their spears, wrapped themselves in 
blue mantles, and attended on his majesty. On his 


taking leave, they discarded their attire ; he mounted 
his horse, and away went the most extraordinary 
cavalcade I ever saw in my life." 

In time of battle the African women encourage the 
troops, supply them with fresh arrows, and hurl 
stones at their enemies. In some tribes it is com- 
mon for them to unite with the men in hunting the 
lion and the leopard. 

Mr. Campbell attended a palaver, or council, in 
Southern Africa. He says, " The speeches were re- 
plete with frankness, courage, often with good sense, 
and even with a rude species of eloquence. The 
women stood behind and took an eager interest in 
the debate — cheering those whose sentiments they 
approved, or bursting into loud laughter at any thing 
they considered ridiculous." 

If the king of Congo dies without sons, his daugh- 
ter, if she be marriageble, becomes absolute mistress 
of the kingdom. She visits various towns and vil- 
lages, where she causes the men to appear before her, 
that she may select a husband from among them. 
When her choice is made, she resigns all authority 
into his hands, and he becomes the king. 

Every great man has bands of minstrels, of both 
sexes, who sing his praises in extempore poetry, 
while they play upon drums, or guitars with three 

Some of these guiriots, or minstrels, travel about 
the country with their families, dancing and singing 
at every village where their services are required. 
The Africans are so partial to these wandering musi- 



cians, that they often make them quite rich by their 
liberality. The female singers are covered with vari- 
ous colored beads, and not unfrequently with orna- 
ments of the precious metals. But though the gui- 
riots are always welcome at weddings and festivals, 
though their songs kindle the soldier's courage as he 
goes to battle, and enliven the dreariness of journeys 
through the desert, yet they are regarded with even 
more contempt than falls upon similar classes in 
other parts of the world. Not even a slave would 
consent to marry into a family that had followed this 
profession; and when they die, their bodies are 
placed in hollow trees, from the idea that crops of 
millet would certainly fail if they were buried in the 
earth. The guiriots dance in the same immodest 
style that characterizes the Asiatic performers. 
Their dances are always accompanied by drums and 
other musical instruments. Among the Wolofs none 
but public singers play on any instrument, it being 
considered disrespectable for others to practise this 

The African women are so passionately fond of 
dancing, that wherever the itinerant minstrels appear, 
they flock around them, and encourage them by 
songs, while they beat time by clapping their hands. 
Indeed with this mirth-loving race every thing fur- 
nishes occasion for festivity and frolic. Their mar- 
riages and funerals conclude with dances ; all their 
festivals are commemorated with songs and dances ; 
every moonlight night the men and women meet in 
great numbers to enjoy this favorite exercise ; and if 


the moon be wanting, they dance by the light of 
large fires. The young girls often unite together to 
buy palm wine, and after an entertainment at the hut 
of one of their companions, they go together through 
the village, singing in chorus a variety of charming 
airs, marking time by clapping their hands ; these 
strains, though simple, and often repeated, are by no 
means monotonous. The Fulah songs are said to 
have a melancholy sweetness which is exceedingly 
captivating ; and some of the Wolof airs are grace- 
fully pathetic, while the measures in which they are 
composed indicates skill in music somewhat remark- 
able in a people so little civilized. On the banks of 
rivers and on the sea-coast, the inhabitants of vil- 
lages one or two miles distant may be heard singing 
the same song, and alternately answering each other. 
Drums are their most common musical instruments ; 
beside which they have a guitar of three strings, 
made of half a calabash covered with leather ; a spe- 
cies of castanets, made of small gourd shells, filled 
with pebbles, or Guinea peas, which the dancers 
shake in a lively manner ; and an instrument resem- 
bling a spinnet, called the balafo, in which the notes 
are struck by small sticks, terminated by knobs co- 
vered with leather. These instruments are generally 
of rude construction, and produce dull, heavy tones ; 
but the voices of the people are peculiarly soft and 
melodious, and they are said to keep time with great 
exactness. Music is never mute in Africa. Whe- 
ther the inhabitants are weaving at their doors, la- 
boring in the fields, rowing their boats, or wandering 


in the desert, songs may be heard resounding through 
the air. Even the poor slaves dragged to distant 
markets, suffering with hunger, and thirst, and cruel 
laceration, will begin to sing as soon as they have a 
few moments rest ; particularly if the assurance is 
given them that after they pass a certain boundary, 
they shall be free and dressed in red. Thus does the 
God of love console his guileless children even under 
circumstances of the greatest external misery ! and 
man, in the wantonness of his pride, makes this bless- 
ed influence of Divine Providence an excuse for con- 
tinued cruelty ! 

The Africans at their convivial meetings are ex- 
tremely fond of listening to stories of wild and ludi- 
crous adventures, and the wonderful effects of magic 
and enchantments. They have likewise a species of 
pantomime or puppet-shows. The women are ex- 
travagantly fond of a game called ouri, which they 
learned from the Arabs. A box with twelve square 
holes contains a quantity of round seeds, generally 
from the baobab tree. Each player has twenty-one 
seeds to dispose of; they play alternately, and draw 
lots who shall begin. The combinations are said to 
be more numerous and complicated than those of 
chess ; yet girls of ten or twelve years old may often 
be seen sitting under the shade of a tree intently 
studying this difficult game. 

Some of the African tribes have become Moham- 
medans in consequence of their connection with the 
Moors ; but in general they are pagans. The belief 
in one Supreme Being and a future state of rewards 


and punishments is, however, universal, and without 
exception ; they likewise believe that the Almighty 
has intrusted the government of the world to subor- 
dinate spirits, with whom they suppose certain magi- 
cal ceremonies have great influence. When ques- 
tioned upon these subjects, they always endeavor to 
wave the conversation, by answering reverently that 
such matters are far above the understanding of man. 
At the return of the new moon, (which they suppose 
to be each time newly created,) every individual 
offers a short whispered prayer of thanksgiving ; but 
they pray at no other time ; saying it is presumptu- 
ous for mortals to ask the Deity to change decrees 
of unerring wisdom. When asked why they observe 
a festival at the new moon, they simply answer that 
their fathers did so before them. 

Phillis Wheatly, a black female child brought 
from the interior of Africa, and sold as a slave in 
Boston, New England, afterward gained great cele- 
brity by her poetical writings, which, considering 
the period in which she lived, and the limited advan- 
tages of her own education, are certainly very re- 
markable. This intelligent woman could remember 
very little about the customs of her native land, ex- 
cepting that her mother always poured out water 
before the rising sun. 

Hornemann says it was the custom in Bornou 
annually to throw a richly decorated maiden into 
the Niger, according to the ancient custom in Egypt. 

The Africans, like all uneducated people, are ex- 
tremely superstitious. They never go to battle, or 


fconfrnence a journey, without being loaded with cer^ 
tain protecting charms, of which the most valuable 
are written sentences sewed up in little bags. The 
marabouts or priests sell an immense number of 
verses from the Koran, for this purpose. When 
major Denham was in Houssa, the women, having 
seen him write, came to him in crowds to obtain 
amulets to restore their beauty, preserve the affec- 
tions of their lovers, and sometimes to destroy a 
rival. When the Portuguese first attempted to esta- 
blish their empire in Congo, they found women of 
rank, who went about with dishevelled hair, beating 
drums, and pretending to perform magical cures ; 
and the women of Loggum, who are said to be very 
intelligent, are still quite celebrated for their skill in 

The Africans are generally prejudiced against un- 
dertaking any thing on Friday ; if they are pursuing 
a journey, they will halt under a tree and wait till 
that day is over. There are likewise certain animals 
and objects, which if met unexpectedly are considered 
bad omens. An annual festival, called the tampcara? 
is distinguished by a strange superstitious custom* 
At this period a personage appears on the banks of 
the Gambia, to whom they give the name of Tamp- 
cara. The natives believe him to be a demon, and 
bestow without resistance whatever he pleases to 
demand. He appears only in the night, but his door 
is at all hours open to the women. Husbands dare 
not betray the slightest symptoms of jealousy, for 
fear of incurring the awful displeasure of Tampcara, 


There is another pretended demon, called Mumbo 
Jumbo, whose mysteries are celebrated in the night- 
time. Several nights previous to his arrival, a great 
noise is heard in the adjoining woods. The men go 
out to meet him, and find him with a stick in his 
hand, decorated in a hideous and fantastic manner 
with the bark of trees. Preceded by a band of mu- 
sic, he approaches the village, where the women 
ranged in a circle fearfully await his arrival. Songs 
accompany the instruments, and Mumbo Jumbo him- 
self sings an air peculiar to the occasion. The most 
profound silence follows. After a pause, Mumbo 
Jumbo points out those women who have behaved 
improperly during the year. They are immediately 
seized, tied to a post, and whipped by the mysterious 
visiter, with more or less severity, according to the 
nature of their offence. All the assembly join in 
shouts of derision, and the women are quite as ready 
to take part against their sisters in disgrace as they 
are accused of being in more civilized countries. 
When African wives are refractory, it is a common 
threat to remind them of the annual visit of Mumbo 
Jumbo, who will assuredly find out their faults and 
punish them accordingly. The dress in which he 
usually appears is often kept hung upon the trees, 
by way of admonition. This dreaded personage no 
doubt receives his information from the husband or 
father of the culprit ; but the secret of the institution 
is so carefully preserved, that a king, whose young 
wife had coaxed him to tell it, was afterward per- 
suaded to put all his wives to death to prevent dis- 



The following is the air sung by Mumbo Jumbo, 
as he enters a village : 

Air of 

Mumbo Jumbo 

Fan na boo la 

fa na ma o 






ton sa boo la le fe no bi na ni a o 

The Africans have a most terrific idea of the sea, 
which they always call the big salt water. Some 
of the priests describe it as a malignant deity, and 
forbid people to approach it. Beyond this big water 
they suppose there is a land full of white sea-monster 's, 
cannibals, and sorcerers, who send to Africa and carry 
off great numbers of men, women, and children, on 
purpose to devour them. 

Poor Gustavus Vasa, who, with his little sister, 
was stolen while they were at play, was exceedingly 
terrified at the sight of Europeans in a vessel. 
" Where do these white monsters come from ?" said 


he : " Do they always live in these immense dens 
upon the water? How can they move that great 
house, except by magic ? 

The Africans consider our color quite as great a 
deformity as we regard theirs. When Andanson 
entered a village at a little distance from the coast, 
the children ran away screaming with terror ; and it 
required a great effort to persuade them to approach 
the white man, and touch his long straight hair. 
Many of them suppose that the pale color of Euro- 
peans is owing to a leprous disease. When Mungo 
Park was detained at Benown, the king's wives made 
him unbutton his waistcoat to show his white skin ; 
and even after they had counted his fingers and toes, 
to ascertain that he was a human being, they could 
not refrain from a shudder whenever they approached 
him. The king's sons seriously proposed to put out 
his eyes because they so much resembled a cat. 
The wives of the Foulah king were more civil to the 
traveller, but they found his features and color 
equally disagreeable. Mr. Park says : " As soon as 
I entered, the whole seraglio surrounded me, some 
begging for physic, others for amber, and all of them 
desirous of trying that great African specific, blood- 
letting. They were ten or twelve in number, most 
of them young and handsome. They rallied me with 
a good deal of gayety on different subjects, particu- 
larly on the whiteness of my skin and the prominence 
of my nose. They insisted that both were artificial. 
The first they said was produced when I was an in- 
fant, by dipping me in milk ; and they insisted that 


my nose had been pinched every day till it had ac- 
quired its present unsightly and unnatural conforma- 
tion. Without disputing my own deformity, I paid 
them many compliments on African beauty. I prais- 
ed the glossy jet of their skins, and the lovely de- 
pression of their noses ; but they told me that honey- 
mouth was not esteemed in Bondu. In return, how- 
ever, for my company, or my compliments, to which 
they seemed not to be so insensible as they affected 
to be, they presented me with a jar of honey and 
some fish, which were sent to my lodging." 

The prejudice with regard to a white skin is not 
to be wondered at, when we consider that nearly all 
the intercourse between Europe and Africa has been 
for the purpose of obtaining slaves ; and to this cir- 
cumstance must be added the natural tendency we 
all have to admire what we are most accustomed to 
in our own friends. 

Mungo Park feelingly describes the sufferings of 
some poor slaves that belonged to a caravan with 
which he travelled. He says : " One of the female 
slaves, numed Nealee, began to lag behind, and com- 
plain dreadfully of pains in her limbs. Her load was 
taken from her, and she was ordered to keep in front 
of the caravan. About eleven o'clock, as the party 
was resting by a small rivulet, a hive of bees, which 
had been disturbed in a hollow tree, attacked the 
people and made them fly in all directions. When 
the enemy had desisted from pursuit, and all were 
employed in picking out the stings, it was discovered 
that Nealee had not come, up. She was found, very 


much exhausted, lying by the rivulet, to which she 
had crept in hopes of defending herself from the bees, 
by throwing water over her body ; but she was stung 
in the most dreadful manner. When the slatees* 
had picked out the stings as well as they could, she 
was washed with water and then rubbed with bruised 
leaves ; but the wretched woman obstinately refused 
to proceed any farther, declaring that she would ra- 
ther die than walk another step. As entreaties and 
threats were used in vain, the whip was at length 
applied. After bearing patiently a few strokes, she 
started up, and walked with tolerable expedition for 
four or five hours longer, when she made an attempt 
to run away from the coffle, but was so very weak 
that she soon fell down in the grass. Though she 
was unable to rise, the whip was a second time em- 
ployed, but without effect. They tried to place her 
upon the ass which carried the provisions ; but she 
could not sit erect ; and the animal being very re- 
fractory, it was found impossible to carry her forward 
in that manner. The day's journey was nearly end- 
ed, and being unwilling to abandon her, they made a 
litter of bamboo canes, and tied her on it with slips 
of bark. This litter was carried on the heads of two 
slaves, followed by two more, who relieved them 
occasionally. In this manner she was carried till 
the caravan reached a stream of water, where they 
stopped for the night. At daybreak poor Nealee 
was awakened ; but her limbs were now so stiff and 

* Black traders who go from the^coast to the interior for articles 
of merchandise, of which slaves constitute a large portion. 


painful that she could neither walk nor stand. She 
was therefore lifted like a corpse upon the back of an 
ass ; her hands fastened together under the animal's 
neck, and her feet under his belly, with long strips of 
bark. But the ass was so very unruly, that no sort 
of treatment could make him proceed with his load ; 
and as Nealee made no exertion to prevent herself 
from falling, she was quickly thrown off, and had 
her limbs much bruised. The general cry of the 
coffle now was, ' Cut her throat — Cut her throat.' " 

Mr. Park, not wishing to see this put in execution, 
hurried onward. When he had walked about a mile, 
one of Karfa's domestic slaves came up with poor 
Nealee's garment on the end of his bow, and ex- 
claimed, " Nealee is lost." Mr. Park asked if the 
garment had been given him for cutting her throat. 
He replied that Karfa would not consent to that 
measure, and they had left her on the road. The 
helpless creature was no doubt soon devoured by 
wild beasts. 

Mr. Clapperton tells another painful story of a 
wretched slave mother, who saw her child dashed 
on the ground, while she herself was compelled by 
the lash to drag along her exhausted frame. 

African mothers have an unbounded affection for 
their children. When Mr. Park was at Wawra, and 
known to be on his way to Sego, several women 
came and begged him to ask the king about their 
sons, who had been taken away to the army. One 
declared that she had neither seen nor heard of hers 
for several years ; that he was no heathen, but said 


his prayers daily ; and that he was often the subject 
of her dreams. 

At Jumbo the same traveller witnessed an affect- 
ing interview between an African who had been long 
absent from home, and his relations. His aged and 
blind mother, leaning on a staff, was led forth to 
meet him. She stretched out her hands to welcome 
him, fondly stroked his hands, arms, and face, and 
seemed delighted to hear once more the music of his 
voice. Instances are likewise on record of mothers 
that have fallen down dead on the sands, when they 
saw their children forced away in slave ships. 

When suffering the extremity of famine, mothers 
in the interior sometimes sell their children to a 
wealthier neighbor, for the sake of procuring food. 
But the domestic slavery of the Africans is altoge- 
ther of a milder character, and more resembles He- 
brew servitude, than the slavery existing among white 
men. Even the richest African lives in a manner so 
simple and pastoral, that little toil is requisite to sup- 
ply his wants, and being a stranger to the love of 
accumulating wealth, he has no temptation to work 
his laborers beyond their strength. The slave and 
his master eat, drink, and work together in all the 
freedom of uncivilized life ; and the master can nei- 
ther put a slave to death for crime, or sell him to a 
stranger, without calling a public palaver, or discus- 
sion, of the elders of the tribe. 

The affection of parents is warmly reciprocated by 
their children. An African will forgive any personal 
injury much more readily than a disrespectful epithet 


applied to his parents. " Strike me, but do not 
curse my mother !" is a common expression among 
them. Filial attachment is less strong toward fa- 
thers than toward mothers ; because paternal love is 
weakened by being divided among the offspring of 
several different wives. 

In general, the fondness of African mothers is 
confined to the bodily comfort of their children ; but 
the Mandingoes extend their care to the formation 
of moral character. A Mandingo woman whose son 
had been mortally wounded by a Moor, wrung her 
hands in frantic grief, continually repeating, " He 
never told a lie ; no, never." 

The women of Madagascar probably love their 
children as tenderly as other mothers, but with them 
superstition conquers nature, as it does among the 
Hindoos. If a magician decides that the day of a 
child's birth is an unlucky one, parents endeavor to 
avert the supposed evil destiny that awaits the infant, 
by putting a violent end to its existence. Sometimes 
the innocent little creatures are left in a narrow 
path, through which large herds of cattle are driven ; 
and if it escape without being trampled to death, it 
is supposed that the malignant influence is removed. 
Sometimes a wooden vessel is filled with water, and 
the babe's face forcibly held in it, till it ceases to 
breathe ; sometimes it is laid face downward in a 
pit dug for its reception ; and sometimes a cloth is 
stuffed into its mouth until suffocation ensues. Pa- 
rents themselves generally perform the horrid office, 
strengthened by the mistaken idea that there is no 
vol. i. 18 


other way of saving the child from the misery pre- 
dicted for its future years. 

The hospitality which generally characterizes a 
pastoral people prevails in Africa. The blind are 
the only beggars ever seen. They assemble in 
greater or less numbers and take their rounds in the 
villages, singing verses from the Koran ; and every 
one is ready to put grain and other provisions into 
the bags which they carry slung at their backs. 
The Seracolots are very remarkable for their hospi- 
tality. When a vessel anchors near one of their 
villages, the whole crew are abundantly and gratui- 
tously furnished with every necessary ; and when a 
stranger enters one of their dwellings, the owner 
goes out of it, saying, " White man, my house, my 
wife, my children, belong to thee." This is no un- 
meaning compliment ; from that moment the guest 
does in fact enjoy all the prerogatives of the master. 

In cases where suspicion or fear led the men to 
treat Mungo Park with neglect or rudeness, he al- 
ways found women compassionate and kind. When 
the chief of a Foulah village shut the door in his 
face, a poor woman, who was spinning cotton in front 
of her hut, invited him in, and gave him a plentiful 
dish of kouskous ; and at another time when he sat 
pensive and hungry by the road-side, unable to pro- 
cure any food, an old female slave stopped to ask 
whether he had any dinner ; and being informed that 
he had ^e-en robbed of every thing, she took the bas- 
ket of ground-nuts from her head, and with a bene- 
volent look gave him a few handfuls. The weary 


traveller was about to thank her for this seasonable 
relief, but she walked away before he had time. 

One tempestuous night the same daring adventurer, 
hungry, destitute, and disheartened, took shelter for 
the night under a tree. A Bambarra woman, re- 
turning from the labors of the field, inquired why he 
looked so sad ; and when she learned his situation 
she took up his saddle and bridle, and bade him fol- 
low her. She conducted him to her hut, lighted a 
lamp, spread a mat for him to sit upon, broiled a fish 
for his supper, and gave him to understand that he 
might, lie down and sleep without interruption. 
While he rested, the women in the hut resumed their 
spinning, an employment which had been for a while 
interrupted by their surprise at seeing a white man. 
As they worked, they sung an extempore song, of 
which the traveller was the subject. 

The winds roared, and the rains fell ; 
The poor white man, faint and weary, 
Came and sat under our tree. 
He has no mother to bring him milk, 
No wife to grind his corn. 


Let us pity the white man ; 

No mother has he to bring him milk, 

No wife to grind his corn. 

The air was sweet and plaintive, and the kind sen- 
timents it conveyed affected Mr. Park so deeply that 
he could not sleep. In the morning, he gave his 
landlady two of the four brass buttons that remained 
on his waistcoat ; these were all he had to offer to 
signify his gratitude. 


" In all my wanderings and wretchedness," says 
this enlightened traveller, " I found women uniformly 
kind and compassionate ; and I can truly say, as my 
predecessor, Mr. Ledyard, has said before me : * To a 
woman I never addressed myself in the language of 
decency and friendship without receiving a decent 
and friendly answer. If I was hungry or thirsty, 
wet, or sick, they did not hesitate, like the men, to 
perform a generous action. In so free and so kind a 
manner did they contribute to my relief, that if I was 
dry, I drank the sweetest draught, and if hungry, I 
ate the coarsest morsel, with a double relish.' " 

An Arab widow at Houssa became very much en- 
amored with captain Clapperton, and he found some 
difficulty in ridding himself of her suit. According 
to Moorish custom, her eyebrows were dyed black, 
her hair blue, her hands and feet red, and her huge 
person was loaded with necklaces, girdles, and brace- 
lets. In order still farther to tempt the European, 
she displayed to him an additional store of finery, 
and carried him through several rooms, one of which 
was ornamented with pewter dishes and bright brass 
pans. After these preliminaries, she proposed to 
send forthwith for a priest to unite their destinies. 
The captain stammered out the best apology he 
could, and hurried away. She followed him to a 
neighboring village, sitting astride on a very fine 
horse, with scarlet housings trimmed with lace. She 
wore a red silk mantle and morocco boots, and a mul- 
titude of spells sewed in various colored leather were 
hung areund her. Her drummer was decorated in 


ostrich feathers, and a train of armed attendants fol- 
lowed her. It was rumored that she intended to make 
herself queen, and invite captain Clapperton to share 
the throne of Wawa. Her wealth and the influence 
she might enable him to obtain, for a moment tempt- 
ed him ; and as the widow had induced his servant 
Pascoe to take a wife from among her slaves, she 
had, according to African ideas, acquired some right 
to himself; but he soon directed Pascoe to return his 
wife, and thus destroy her remaining hopes. " It 
would indeed have been a fine end of my journey," 
says he, " if I had deposed old Mohammed, and set 
up for myself, with this walking tun butt for a 

One of Bonaparte's officers, named Duranton, ex- 
patriated himself at the time France was conquered 
by foreign arms, and entered into commercial rela- 
tions in Africa. He finally went as far into the inte- 
rior as Kasso, where he adopted the language and 
habits of the natives. By his bravery and knowledge 
he soon gained unbounded influence. The king had 
an only daughter, about sixteen, whom her country- 
men esteemed beautiful. Duranton, notwithstanding 
the prejudice against his complexion, was pleasing 
to the young damsel. He married her, and was soon 
after elected king of Kasso. He has extended the 
commerce of the tribe, but attempted no innovation 
upon their ancient customs. He eats, dresses, and 
sits after the manner of the natives, and observes pre- 
cisely the same sort of etiquette that was maintained 
by his father-in-law. 


On the coasts of Africa, where the natives have 
frequent intercourse with European sailors, they are 
exceedingly licentious and depraved. 

According to Bruce's description, the Abyssinian 
women are grossly familiar in their manners ; at a 
village on the banks of the Gambia, the women were 
likewise guilty of very rude freedoms. They troubled 
Mr. Park exceedingly, begging for amber, beads, &c, 
and boldly proceeding to tear his clothes, in order to 
secure the buttons. He mounted his horse and rode 
off; but they followed him for more than a mile, 
trying to renew their outrages. 

The women of Loggun are described by major 
Denham as intelligent, handsome, and lively; but 
their freedoms were not of the most delicate charac- 
ter, and they tried to pilfer every thing they could 
lay hands on. When detected they laughed, and 
called out to each other how sharp the, traveller was 
in finding out their tricks. 

Captain Clapperton makes great complaints of the 
loquacity of the women. He says they convinced 
him that no power, not even African despotism, can 
silence a woman's tongue. According to his own 
testimony, however, their love of talk originated in 
mere childish curiosity, and was indulged with the 
kindest intentions. 

In Walo, the crown is hereditary, but always de- 
scends to the eldest son of the king's sister ; and 
among several other tribes a man's property is al- 
ways inherited by the offspring of his sister, accord- 
ing to the custom of the Nairs of Hindostan. This 


circumstance does not indicate any great confidence 
in the character of women* 

It has been said that the Africans are generally 
indolent ; and when compared with the busy, rest-* 
less sons of ambition and avarice, this is no doubt 
true. The soil is prolific and easy of cultivation ; 
their wants are very few and simple ; and they have 
not the slightest desire for the accumulation of 
wealth. During the few months which it is necessa- 
ry to devote to agricultural pursuits, they are so 
busy that they scarcely allow themselves time for 
sleep ; and the rest of the year they give up to child- 
like merriment. 

The African race, as distinguished from the Arabs 
or Moors, are faithful, affectionate, sensitive in their 
feelings, and liable to almost instantaneous changes 
from gloom to gayety, according to the circumstances 
in which they are placed. When in the greatest 
misery, a kind look or word will animate them, as it 
does the heart of a little child ; but when their cup 
of suffering is full, the " drop too much" which ty- 
ranny seeks to add to the bitter measure, often arous- 
es them to fierce and desperate fury. In a state of 
freedom they are almost universally gentle, inquisi- 
tive, credulous, and fond of flattery. 

Barrow speaks thus of the KafFers : M A party of 
women were the first who advanced to salute us f 
laughing and dancing round the wagons, and putting 
on all the coaxing manners they could invent, in 
order to procure from us tobacco and brass buttons. 
Good temper, animation, and a cheerful turn of mind, 


beamed in all their countenances. We found them 
to be modest without reserve ; extremely curious 
without being troublesome ; lively but not impudent ; 
and sportive without the least shadow of being lasci- 
vious. The most striking feature in their character 
was a degree of sprightliness, activity, and vivacity, 
that distinguished them from the women of most un- 
civilized nations, who are generally reserved toward 

The African laws are simple and rude, like their 
habits ; but it appears from the accounts of travel- 
lers that widows retain peaceable possession of their 
property, and are able to transact business with per- 
fect security. This implies a degree of good order 
in society, which one would not expect to find in un- 
civilized states. 

In most of the tribes on the southern and western 
coast of Africa, women do not inherit the property of 
their fathers, either real or personal. 

Among the Wolofs when a young man wishes to 
marry, he signifies it to the parents of the girl, who 
meet him at some public place in the village. When 
the young couple are surrounded by a circle of rela- 
tives, the man offers as much gold or merchandise, 
oxen or slaves, as he can afford to pay. The girl's 
consent is not necessary for the completion of the 
bargain ; but if she refuses to fulfil the promise of 
her parents, she can never marry another; should 
she attempt to do so, the first lover can claim her as 
his slave. As soon as the parties have agreed upon 
the price, the young man pays the required sum ; 


and the same evening the bride is conveyed to the 
bridegroom's hut, by a troop of relations and friends. 
On these occasions she always wears a white veil of 
her own weaving. The rejoicings continue for eight 
days, during which the guests are abundantly sup^ 
plied with palm wine and other liquors. 

Among the Sereres, when a lover has formally ob- 
tained the consent of relations, he summons his 
friends to assist him in carrying off the object of his 
choice. The bride shuts herself up in a hut with 
her companions, where they maintain an obstinate 
siege before they surrender to the assailants. 

In Bambuk, the bride is escorted to the hut of her 
future husband. When she arrives at the door, she 
takes off her sandals, and a calabash of water is 
placed in her hand. She knocks, and the door is 
opened by the relations of the bridegroom, who re- 
mains seated in the midst of the hut. The bride 
kneels before him, pours the water over his feet, and 
wipes them with her mantle, in token of submission. 

Mr. Park speaks of seeing a betrothed gill at Ba- 
niseribe, who knelt before her lover, and presenting a 
calabash of water, desired him to wash his hands ; 
when he had done so, she drank the water, apparently 
with delight ; this being considered a great proof 
of fidelity and love. In Madagascar, wives salute 
their husbands just returned from war, by passing 
the tongue over his feet, in the most respectful man- 

Among the Mandingoes, when the lover has set- 
tled the bargain with the girPs parents, she is covered 


with the bridal veil of white cotton, and seated on a 
mat, with all the elderly women of the neighborhood 
ranged in a circle round her. They give her sage 
instructions concerning the performance of her duties 
and the propriety of her deportment as a matron. A 
band of female guiriots come in and disturb their 
serious lessons with music, singing, and dancing. 
The bridegroom in the mean time entertains his 
friends without doors. A plentiful supper is pro- 
vided, and the evening is devoted to mirth. Before 
midnight the bride is privately conducted by her fe- 
male relatives to the hut which is to be her future 
residence. The bridal party generally continue 
dancing and singing until broad daylight. 

At the island of St. Louis, the native women often 
contract a sort of limited marriage with Europeans, 
and their vows are said to be generally observed with 
exemplary fidelity. They take the Portuguese title 
of Signora, and the children receive the name of their 
father. The bridal ceremonies are similar to the 
Wolofs. When the European husband leaves the 
country, he provides for his family according to his 
wealth, and the generosity of his character ; and his 
wife is at liberty to marry again when she pleases. 

In Congo, marriage is sometimes consecrated with 
Catholic ceremonies, by the converts to Christianity; 
but the pagan natives preserve the simplicity of 
their ancient forms. When a young man has se- 
lected a damsel that pleases him, he sends presents 
to her relatives, accompanied by a cup of palm wine. 
If the presents are accepted, and the wine drank, it is 


considered a sign of approbation. He visits the pa- 
rents, and having received his bride from their hands, 
conducts her to his own house. Here she remains, 
till he is satisfied with regard to her temper, indus- 
try, and general propriety of deportment. Sometimes 
this season of probation lasts one year, and sometimes 
two or three. If either party becomes dissatisfied 
with the other, they separate, without any loss of 
reputation ; but if mutually pleased, they signify it 
publicly to friends and relations, and the event is 
celebrated by a feast. The Portuguese missionaries 
made a strong effort to abolish this custom ; but the 
people were much attached to it ; and mothers uni- 
versally declared they would not subject themselves 
to the reproaches of their daughters, by urging them 
to an indissoluble union with individuals, whose tem- 
pers and dispositions they had never seen tried. 

In Abyssinia there is no form of marriage, except 
what consists in a mutual consent to live together 
as long as they please each other. This connection 
is dissolved and renewed as often as the parties think 
proper. From the highest to the lowest rank, no 
distinction is made between legitimate and illegi- 
timate children. The women, though Mohamme- 
dans, appear freely in public ; and the master of a 
family considers it a point of civility to offer his wife 
or sister to a guest. The celebrated queen of Sheba 
is supposed to have been an Abyssinian; and the 
monarchs now claim descent from Menilek, who they 
say was her son by Solomon, king of the Jews. 

In Caffraria, the bridal ceremonies are so simple 


as scarcely to deserve the name. When young peo- 
ple wish to live together, opposition from parents is 
almost an unheard-of circumstance. A feast is pre- 
pared to give publicity to the event, and they eat, 
drink, and dance, for days or weeks in succession, 
according to the wealth of the parties. If a Caffer 
girl marries during the lifetime of her father, she 
receives for dowry as many cattle as he can afford to 
give ; but after his death, she is dependent on the 
generosity of her brothers. As a wife costs an ox, 
or two cows, it is rare for any but wealthy Caffers 
to have more than one. Twins are said to be more 
common than in any other country, and three chil- 
dren at a birth is a frequent occurrence. 

An African dowry is sometimes furnished in a 
manner painful to think upon. When the sultan of 
Mandara married his daughter to an Arab sheik, 
" the nuptials were celebrated by a great slave hunt 
among the mountains, when, after a dreadful strug- 
gle, three thousand captives, by their tears and bond- 
age, furnished out the materials of a magnificent 
marriage festival." 

In Dahomey, all the unmarried females, throughout 
the kingdom, are considered the property of the des- 
potic sovereign. Once a year they are all brought 
before him ; he selects the most engaging for himself, 
and sells the others at high prices to his subjects. 
No choice is allowed the purchaser. He pays twenty 
thousand cowries, and receives such a wife as the 
king pleases to appoint ; being obliged to appear sa- 
tisfied with the selection, whatever may be her as- 


pect or condition. It is said that some have, in 
mockery, been presented with their own mothers. 
This brutal and bloody sovereign usually keeps as 
many as three thousand wives, who serve him in 
various capacities. No person is allowed to sit even 
on the floor in the royal presence, except his women ; 
and they must kiss the ground whenever they re- 
ceive or deliver a message from the king. These 
women are watched with the most savage jealousy. 

Mr. M'Leod, who visited Dahomey in 1803, had 
his compassion much excited by the sudden disap- 
pearance of Sally Abson, daughter of the late Eng- 
lish governor by a native female. This girl, who had 
been educated in the European manner, was accom- 
plished, and had a most winning simplicity of man- 
ner. Mr. M'Leod could obtain no tidings of her for 
a long time. But at last an old domestic ventured 
to tell him that she had been carried off by an armed 
band, in the night-time, to be enrolled among the 
king's women. 

The # king of Ashantee has three thousand three 
hundred and thirty-three wives ; a mystical num- 
ber, on which the prosperity of the nation is sup- 
posed to depend. 

The king of Yarriba boasted to captain Clapper- 
ton, that his wives linked hand in hand would reach 
entirely across his kingdom. The first question 
asked by the chiefs was, how many wives the king 
of England had ; and when told that he had but one, 
they would burst into loud peals of laughter, accom- 
panied by expressions of surprise and pity. 


These numerous queens are, however, in fact, no* 
thing but servants, and valued only as an indication 
of power and wealth. Beside forming a military- 
guard for the king, they labor in the fields, bring 
water, and carry heavy burdens on their heads, just 
like the wives of the poorest subject. 

The pagan Africans are formally married but to 
one wife ; but they take as many mistresses as they 
can maintain, and send them away when they please. 
The lawful wife, provided she has children, has au- 
thority over all the female members of the household, 
and her children enjoy privileges superior to the rest; 
but if she is so unfortunate as not to be a mother, she 
is not considered as the head of the establishment. 

The women belonging to one household generally 
live very peaceably. Each one takes her turn in 
cooking and other domestic avocations; and the 
husband is expected to be equally kind, generous, 
and attentive to all. 

A slatee, with whom Mr. Park entered Kamalia, 
brought with him a young girl as his fourth wife, 
for whom he had given her parents three slaves. 
His other wives received her at the door very kindly, 
and conducted her into one of the best huts, which 
they had caused to be swept and whitewashed on 
purpose for her reception. 

Dissensions, it is said, do sometimes occur, and the 
husband finds it necessary to administer a little chas- 
tisement before tranquillity is restored. 

Unfaithfulness to the marriage vow is said to be 
very rare among the Mandingoes and the Rafters. 


Thioughout Africa this crime in a woman is pu- 
nished by being sold into slavery ; but the punish- 
ment cannot be arbitrarily and immediately inflicted 
by the husband, as is the case in many Asiatic coun- 
tries ; it is necessary to call a public palaver, or dis- 
cussion, upon the subject. The price of a woman 
condemned for this vice is divided between the king 
and his grandees ; it is therefore probable that they 
keep rather a strict watch upon the morality of 
their female subjects. Sometimes the paramour is 
likewise sentenced to be sold into slavery; some- 
times he receives a severe flogging, amid the shouts 
and laughter of the multitude ; and not unfrequently 
he is murdered by the abused husband. In this lat- 
ter case, unless the murderer can buy a pardon from 
his prince, he is obliged to seek refuge in some other 
kingdom, where he falls at the feet of some rich per- 
son, and voluntarily acknowledges himself a slave ; 
but he can never be sold, and is in faet regarded as 
one of the family. It frequently happens that the 
whole family of the culprit are obliged to flee their 
country, to avoid being sold into slavery for the 
crime of their relative. 

The marabouts always marry among each other; 
and as the children follow the profession of their fa- 
thers, there are whole villages of these priests. They 
obtain great influence by being able to write verses 
of the Koran, and administer very simple medicinal 
remedies. They consider it a sacred obligation to 
ransom all persons of their own profession from 



The ties of domestic affection are said to be pecu- 
liarly strong among the Shouaa Arabs, who reside 
in tents near the central part of Africa. When their 
chief learned that major Denham had been three 
years absent from home, he said, " Are not your 
eyes dimmed with straining to the north, where all 
your thoughts must be ? If my eyes do not see the 
wife and children of my heart for ten days, they are 
flowing with tears when they should be closed in 
sleep." His parting salutation to the traveller was, 
" May you die at your own tents, and in the arms 
of your wife and family." 

In some cases wealthy Africans do not avail them- 
selves of the universal custom of polygamy. Barrow 
thus describes the Eaffer prince, Gaika : " At the 
time I saw him, he was under twenty years of age, 
of an elegant form, and a graceful and manly deport- 
ment ; his face of a deep bronze color, nearly ap- 
proaching to black ; his skin soft and smooth ; his 
eyes dark brown, and full of animation; his teeth 
regular, well set, and pure as the whitest ivory. 
He had the appearance of possessing in an eminent 
degree a solid understanding, a clear head, and an 
amiable disposition. He seemed to be adored by his 
subjects ; the name of Gaika was in every mouth, 
and it was seldom pronounced without symptoms of 
joy. He had only one wife, who was very young, 
and, setting aside the prejudice against color, very 

The French traveller Brue says the women on the 
banks of the Senegal appeared to consider the condi- 


tion of European wives very enviable, and expressed 
great compassion for him in being separated from 
his only wife without the power of marrying an- 
other. When Dr. Lichtenstein visited Latakoo, 
the women were, as usual, very curious about the 
Christian custom of having but one wife. The 
queen approved the system, but she thought polyga- 
my was necessary in Africa, because such numbers 
of the men were killed in war. 

Infants of a few hours old are washed in cold wa- 
ter and laid on a mat, with no other covering than a 
cotton cloth thrown loosely over them. 

In twelve or fifteen days the mothers carry them 
about, suspended at their backs, by means of the 
pagne or mantle, which they fasten around the hips, 
and over one shoulder. Infants are kept in this situ- 
ation nearly the whole day, while the women are 
busy at their various avocations. They are nursed 
until they are able to walk ; sometimes until three 
years old. A few tumbles, or similar trifling acci- 
dents, are not considered worthy of much anxiety 
or commiseration. Till ten or twelve years old, 
children wear no clothing, and do nothing but run 

about and sport on the sands. Those who live 
near the sea-shore, are continually plunging into the 
water ; in consequence of which scarcely any disease 
appears among them, except the small-pox. A child 
receives its name when it is eight days old. A sort 
of paste, called dega, is prepared for the occasion, 
and the priest recites prayers over it. He takes the 
babe in his arms, invokes the blessing of heaven upon 
vol. i. 19 


h, whispers a few words in its ear, spits three times 
in its face, pronounces aloud the name that is given 
to it, and returns it to the mother. He then divides 
the consecrated dega among the guests, and if any 
person be sick, he sends them some of it. A similar 
custom prevails in the Barbary states. 

The moment an African ceases to breathe, his wife 
runs out of the hut, beating her breast, tearing her 
hair, and summoning her neighbors by loud cries, 
Friends and relatives soon assemble in the hut, and 
join in her lamentations, continually repeating, " Woe 
is me I" 

When the marabouts have rubbed the corpse with 
oil and covered it with cloths, each person goes up 
and addresses it, as if still living. In a few minutes 
they go away, saying, " He is dead ;" the lamenta- 
tions are renewed, and continue till the next day ? 
when the burial takes place. Major Denham speaks 
of hearing the Dugganah women singing funeral 
dirges all night long in honor of their husbands, who 
had fallen in battle. These dirges were prepared for 
the occasion, and were so solemn and plaintive, that 
they co aid not be listened to without the deepest 

The body is conveyed to the grave in straw mats. 
Women hired for the occasion follow it with loud 
shrieks, and the most extravagant demonstrations of 
sorrow. They return howling to the hut, where 
they pronounce an eulogium on the deceased. If 
they perform their parts well, they are complimented 
by relations, and -are treated with palm wine, or 


other spirituous liquors. For eight days in succes- 
sion these women go to the grave at sunrise and sun- 
set, and renew their lamentations, saying, " Hadst 
thou not wives, and arms, and horses, and pipes, and 
tobacco ? Wherefore then didst thou leave us ?" 

The relations and friends of the deceased remain 
in seclusion with his widow eight days, to console 
her grief. 

The Abyssinian women wound their faces while 
they lament for the dead. In Congo, the relatives 
shave their heads, anoint their bodies, and rub them 
with dust, during the eight days of mourning. They 
consider it very indecorous for a widow to join in 
any festivity for the space of one year after her hus- 
band's death. 

In Dahomey and Ashantee, wives, and slaves of 
both sexes, often one hundred in number, are slaugh- 
tered at the death of the king, from the idea that he 
will need their attendance in another world ; and 
every year, at least one human being and many ani- 
mals are killed " to water the graves" of the royal 
family. The government of Yarriba is more mild 
and paternal ; but it is the custom for a few of the 
king's favorite wives, and some of his principal mi- 
nisters, to take poison, which is presented to them in 
parrots' eggs, in order that they may go to serve his 
majesty in the world of spirits. 

Fragrant flowers and a quantity of gold are some- 
times buried with people of rank, for their use in 
another world. On the death of a young girl, the 
body is washed, anointed with palm oil, decorated 


in all her finery, and laid upon a bed ; her compa- 
nions join in a dance around her; and when this cere- 
mony is concluded, she is buried in her best clothes. 
The graves are covered with little mounds of straw, 
on which a lance, bow, and arrow are placed for the 
men, and a mortar and pestle for a woman. The so- 
lemnities always conclude with a feast, at which the 
guiriots dance, while all join in singing the praises 
of the deceased. 

The Africans, like the Asiatics, do not use knives 
or forks. All eat from a wooden bowl, which is 
placed on a mat, or low stool, in the middle of the 
hut. The women seldom eat until the men have 
done. After the repast a woman brings a calabash 
of water, and offers it to each of the guests, for the 
purpose of washing his hands and mouth. In Tesee 
the women are not allowed to eat eggs, though the 
men eat them without scruple. It is not known in 
what the custom originated, but nothing will affront 
a woman of that country so much as to offer her an 

In Congo, people of rank are often carried by 

slaves in a sort of hammock swung upon poles, 
which is frequently protected from the sun by an 
awning thrown over it. Women in all parts of Afri- 
ca are often seen riding on asses or oxen. They 
guide the latter by means of a string passed through 
a ring in the nose ; and they sometimes manage to 
make these quiet beasts curvet and caper. 

Apes, baboons, and monkeys, are exceedingly nu- 
merous in Africa. A woman of the country of Ga- 


lam, who was carrying some milk and millet to sell 
in a neighboring village, was attacked by a troop of 
apes from three to four feet high. They threw 
stones at her, and holding her fast, beat her with 
sticks, until she dropped the vessel she was carrying. 
She returned home much bruised, and the men form- 
ed a hunting party, which killed ten of the savage 
animals, and wounded several others ; not however 
without getting sundry bites and bruises during the 

The Hottentot race seem to be distinct from all 
other people, and surpassing all others, even the Cal- 
mucks, in ugliness. The eyes are long, narrow, and 
distant from each other ; the eyelids do not form an 
angle at the extremity near the nose, but are formed 
in a manner very similar to the Chinese ; their cheek 
bones are very high and prominent, and form nearly 
a triangle with the narrow pointed chin ; the com- 
plexion is yellowish brown, like an autumn leaf; the 
hair grows in small tufts at certain distances from 
each other ; when kept short, the head looks like a 
hard shoe-brush, but when suffered to grow, it hangs 
in the neck in a sort of hard twisted fringe. An old 
Hottentot woman is said to be a most uncouth and 
laughable figure ; some parts of the body being very 
lank, and others jutting out in huge protuberances 
of loose flesh. The letter S gives the best idea of 
the curvature of their forms. The habit of throwing 
the breast over the shoulder, in order to enable in- 
fants to nurse while swinging at their backs, con- 
tributes not a little to increase their deformity. Yet 


some of the women, when very young, are said to be 
perfect models of beauty in the female form. Every 
joint and limb is well turned and proportioned, and 
the hands and feet are remarkably small and deli- 
cate, though they never wear shoes, or sandals. 
Their charms, however, endure but a very short 
time. They are old at thirty ; and long before that 
time, their shape assumes those strange and disgust- 
ing disproportions, for which it seems difficult to ac- 

In their state of slavery they have suffered great 
cruelties from their masters, the Dutch boors of 
South Africa. The lands and flocks, of which their 
fathers had been in peaceful and happy possession, 
were wrested from them ; they were compelled to la- 
bor without compensation ; allowed scarcely food 
enough to support life ; mangled with tough, heavy 
whips of the sea-cow's hide ; and sometimes, for the 
slightest offences, chained to a post, while shot was 
fired into their naked limbs. These Dutch tyrants 
introduced a singular degree of luxurious refinement 
into their mode of despotism ; they did not, accord- 
ing to the usual custom of slave-owners, order their 
offending vassals to receive a certain number of 
lashes, but directions were given to flog them while 
their master or mistress lazily smoked out one, two, 
three, or four pipes. 

Under these circumstances, the simple, kind-heart- 
ed Hottentots became servile, degraded, and wretched 
to the last degre'e. Unlike all others of the colored 
race, they were always gloomy and dejected, being 


rarely excited even to a languid smile. Their indo- 
lence was so great that they would fast a whole day 
rather than dig a root, if they might only be allowed 
to sleep. The natural color of their bodies was con- 
cealed by an accumulation of grease and soot, and 
their habits were so filthy that the description would 
be disgusting. Though strong in their attachment 
to each other, they were generally disinclined to 

The situation in which women were placed, — being 
originally ignorant savages, and afterward complete- 
ly in the power of masters, whose policy it was to 
brutalize them, — of course precluded all possibility of 
morality or modesty. In fact the immortal part of 
man seemed extinguished in the Hottentots, and they 
appeared to be altogether like the beasts of the field. 

The bit of sheep-skin which they wear for cloth- 
ing scarcely answers the purposes of decency, and 
with them it is entirely a matter of indifference 
whether it does or not. The women wear a small 
leather apron, seven or eight inches wide, which it is 
their delight to decorate with beads, shells, or large 
metal buttons. If in addition to this they can ob- 
tain beads for the neck, and copper rings for the 
arms, they experience as much delight as can possi- 
bly be felt by people of such a phlegmatic tempera- 
ment. Those who cannot afford beads and shells 
wear leather necklaces and bracelets, and cover them- 
selves with a piece of sheep-skin, cut into narrow 
strips, which hang in a bunch about half way to the 
knee. The rattling of this hard dry skin announces 


the approach of a Hottentot woman some time be- 
fore she appears. In winter, they defend themselves 
from the cold by means of a sheep-skin cloak over 
the shoulders ; and some wear skin caps on their 
heads, ornamented as their rude fancy dictates. 
Fragments of a looking-glass, to fasten in their caps, 
or among their hair, are considered as precious as 
diamonds with us. 

The habit of greasing their bodies probably origi- 
nated, as it did in other warm climates, in the scarci- 
ty of water, and the necessity of some protection 
from the rays of the sun. Barrow suggests that this 
practice introduced into South America would prove 
a salutary check to the prevalence of that loathsome 
disorder called the elephantiasis. 

When a Hottentot wishes to marry, he drives two 
or three of his best oxen or sheep to the house of the 
bride's relations, accompanied by as many friends as 
he can collect together. The animals are slain, and 
the whole assembly rub themselves with the fat. 
The men sit in a circle round the bridegroom, and 
the women round the bride. A blessing is then pro- 
nounced on the young couple, which principally con- 
sists in the hope that their sons will be expert hunts- 
men, and prove a comfort to their old age. A feast 
is then prepared, and when they have all eaten vora- 
ciously, a pipe is lighted, of which each one smokes 
a few whiffs, and then passes it to his neighbor. 
Feasting is sometimes kept up for several days ; but 
they have no music or dancing. Men and women 
always eat separately. 


When an infant is born, they rub it gently with 
fresh cow-dung, believing it to possess certain medi- 
cinal qualities ; they then bruise the stalks of wild 
figs and wash the child in the juice ; and when this 
is dry, fat, or butter, is liberally applied. After this 
the parents give it a name, which is generally the 
appellation of some favorite animal. A feast is giv- 
en, of which all the inhabitants of the kraal, or vil- 
lage, partake, except the mother, who receives some 
of the fat for the use of herself and child. 

Large numbers of the Hottentot women are child- 
less, and a family of six is considered a wonderful 

The half European and half Hottentot children 
are remarkably vigorous and healthy, and become 
tall, well-proportioned men and women. This mix- 
ed race, somewhat remarkable for brightness and ac- 
tivity, seem likely to supplant the natives entirely. 

It rarely happens that a Hottentot woman has 
twins, but when this is the case one of them is bar- 
barously exposed in the woods, to be starved, or de- 
voured by wild beasts, as the case may be. Very old 
people are sometimes exposed in the same way. All 
the other African tribes are distinguished for great 
respect and tenderness toward the aged. 

When the Hottentot boys are eighteen years old, 
they are formally admitted into the society of men. 
The company of women, even that of their own mo- 
thers, is ever after considered a disgrace to them ; and 
being released from all maternal authority, they not 


unfrequently beat their mothers and sisters, merely 
to show manly independence. 

The women howl and lament for the dead, in the 
same manner that prevails in other portions of the 

A Hottentot kraal, or village, consists of a circle 
of low dirty huts, which at a little distance resemble 
a cluster of bee-hives. The employments of the wo- 
men are such as generally fall to their lot in a sa- 
vage state. A great many of them are slaves to the 
Dutch boors, and of course perform all their most 
menial and laborious occupations. Their patience 
and fortitude under suffering are truly wonderful. 

Low as the Hottentots are in the scale of humani- 
ty, they are by no means destitute of good and 
agreeable qualities. They are very mild, inoffensive, 
open-hearted, honest, and grateful. Their affection 
for each other is so strong, that they will at any mo- 
ment share their last morsel of food with a distressed 
companion ; and they very seldom quarrel, or speak 
unkindly to their associates. They seem to be en- 
tirely destitute of cunning, and when they have com- 
mitted a fault rarely fail to tell of it with the utmost 

M. Vaillant says : " They are the best, the kind- 
est, and the most hospitable of people. Whoever 
travels among them may be sure of finding food and 
lodging ; and though they will receive presents, they 
never ask for any thing. If they learn that the travel- 
ler has a long journey to accomplish, they will sup- 
ply him with provisions as far as their circumstances 


will allow, and with every thing else necessary to 
enable him to reach the place of his destination. 
Such did these people appear to me, in all the inno- 
cent manners of pastoral life. They excite the idea 
of mankind in a state of infancy." 

The Hernhiiters, or Moravian missionaries, have 
had a most blessed influence on this poor persecuted 
race. These missionaries cultivate gardens and fields 
in the neatest manner, and are themselves engaged in 
various mechanical trades. The Hottentots by kind- 
ness and punctual wages are induced to come and 
work for them, and the good fathers are ever ready 
to instruct them in agriculture and the mechanical 
arts. In 1824, nearly two thousand Hottentots liv- 
ed in small huts, under the protecting influence of 
the missionaries, each one cultivating a little patch 
of ground to raise vegetables for his family. Some 
of them employed their leisure moments in making 
mats and brooms, while others obtained a comforta- 
ble subsistence by the sale of poultry, eggs, and 

Three hundred of their children attended Sunday 
school ; and they contributed five hundred rix dollars 
to the missionary establishment by voluntary sub- 
scriptions. Under the fostering care of true-hearted, 
humble Christians, their habits of indolence and filth 
disappeared, and they became distinguished for in- 
dustry and cleanliness. By the last accounts, about 
sixty Hottentots were communicants of the church, 

Barrow, who visited the establishment in 1798, 
says: "Early one morning I was awakened by 


the noise of some of the finest voices I ever heard, 
and looking out saw a group of female Hottentots 
sitting on the ground. It was Sunday, and they had 
assembled thus early to chant the morning hymn. 
They were all neatly dressed in printed cotton gowns. 
A sight so different from what we had hitherto ob- 
served, with regard to this unhappy class of beings, 
could not fail of being most grateful." 

" On Sundays, they all regularly attend divine 
service, and it is astonishing how ambitious they are 
to appear at church neat and clean. Of the three 
hundred, or thereabouts, that composed the congre- 
gation, about half were dressed in printed cottons. 
Their deportment was truly devout. One of the fa- 
thers delivered a discourse replete with good sense, 
and well suited to the occasion ; tears flowed abun- 
dantly from the eyes of those to whom it was particu- 
larly addressed. The females sung in a plaintive 
and affecting style ; and the voices were in general 
sweet and harmonious." 

The Dutch had always excused their own tyranny 
by saying that their unfortunate victims could not 
possibly be raised above the level of brutes ; and they 
manifested extreme jealousy of the influence of the 
Gospel, because it bringeth light and freedom. The 
same spirit, which always led them to place the poor 
Hottentot in the worst possible point of view, like- 
wise induced them to represent the amiable and gene- 
rous Kaffers as a savage, treacherous, and cruel tribe. 
Yet they knew perfectly well that the Kaffers had 
shown a remarkable degree of moderation toward the 


white colonists ; and that in the midst of a war, into 
which they had been driven by a series of iniquitous 
persecutions, they spared the lives of all the Dutch 
women and children that fell into their hands, though 
their own wives and children were murdered by the 
Dutch without mercy. 

In 1828 the British government relieved the Hot- 
tentots from their grievous thraldom, and at once be- 
stowed upon them all the privileges of citizens. The 
change from slavery to freedom produces the effect 
that would naturally be expected by any one who 
had observed human nature attentively. This long 
oppressed race are fast improving in health, cleanli- 
ness, industry, and respectability. 

The Bojesmans, or Bushmen, are wild Hotten- 
tots, who have always preserved their independence, 
though under circumstances of the extremest misery 
and want. In personal appearance they very much 
resemble the Hottentots, but are more diminutive 
and ugly. The colonists call them Chinese Hotten- 
tots, on account of the peculiar position and forma- 
tion of the eyes and eyelids. Their customs and 
modes of life bear a general resemblance to those df 
their more submissive brethren; but, unlike them, 
they are very cheerful, active, and industrious. Both 
men and women spring from rock to rock, like wild 
antelopes, and their motions are so swift that a 
horseman finds it impossible to keep up with them 
on uneven ground. Although their scanty subsis- 
tence is earned with great danger and fatigue, they 
are always merry. 


The deadly animosity of the Dutch settlers makes 
it necessary for them to remain concealed in their 
hovels among the rocks all day; but on moonlight 
nights, they come out and dance from the setting of 
the sun to its rising. They consider the first thun- 
der storm as a sure indication that winter has passed 
away, and testify their joy by tearing off their 
sheep-skin coverings, and tossing them high up in 
the air. On these occasions, they dance for several 
successive nights. The circular places trodden 
around their huts indicate their fondness for this 

The women usually wear a piece of antelope's 
skin cut into filaments, after the manner of the other 
Hottentots ; and like them they are entirely uncon- 
scious of any shame in being without even this 
scanty covering. Some of them wear caps made of 
ass' skin, and bits of copper or shells suspended in 
the neck from their little tufts of hair. It is cus- 
tomary for elderly men to have two wives, one old 
and the other young. These poor creatures have 
such a dread of white men, that Mr. Barrow could 
hardly tempt the little children to come down the 
rocks toward his party, to receive the biscuits he 
held out to them. The mothers, finding their little 
ones were treated kindly, ventured to approach; and 
when they had received a few trifling presents, forty 
or fifty women and girls came down without any 
symptoms of fear. But the women went backward 
and forward a dozen times, with invitations and pre- 
sents of tobacco, before one man could be prevailed 


upon to descend ; and when he did, he half cried, 
half laughed, and trembled like a frightened child. 

The Gonaquas are a tribe of unsubdued Hottentots, 
taller than the Bojesmans, but resembling them in 
personal appearance. The women generally paint 
the whole body with compartments of red and black. 
The red is an ochrey earth, the color of brick-dust, 
and the black is either soot or charcoal, mixed with 
grease. To finish this embellishment in approved 
style is a tedious process. Some content themselves 
with merely painting the cheeks. These colors are 
always perfumed with a powder called boughou, the 
smell of which is very disagreeable to those who are 
unused to it ; but the Hottentots are so fond of it, 
that they will sometimes give- a lamb for a thimble 
full of boughou. The men paint only the upper lip ; 
by means of which they continually inhale the fra- 
grance. When young girls consent to perform this 
office for their lovers, it is considered a very endear- 
ing proof of affection. These women are very fond 
mothers. Their principal occupations are cooking, 
taking care of their children, and making garments 
and vessels of the skins of animals sewed with sinews. 
Their aprons and cloaks are usually made of calf 
skins, and are longer and larger than those worn by 
other Hottentots. As soon as milk is taken from 
the cow, it is put in a leather sack with the hairy 
side inwards, and suffered to ferment ; for, like the 
Arabs, they have a dislike to sweet milk. 

The Dutch women at the Cape are excessively 
ignorant, tyrannical, lazy, and fat ; the inevitable 


consequence of having slaves to do every species of 
labor, while they themselves indulge in great profu- 
sion of animal food. An old Dutch African woman 
is said to be as laughable a figure as an old Hotten- 
tot ; one being as large and uninterruptedly round as 
a hogshead, and the other characterized by uncouth 
projections of the body. The young Dutch girls at 
the Cape are said to be much superior to their clum- 
sy, awkward brothers. They are generally small 
and well formed, with social, unaffected manners. 
A few of the higher class are tolerable proficients in 
music, French, and English, and have considerable 
skill in lace and various kinds of needle-work. They 
copy with much eagerness the English fashions that 
are brought to them, from time to time, by ladies 
bound for India. 

Sons and daughters share equally in the paternal 
inheritance, and an entire community of property, 
both real and personal, takes place at the marriage 
of two persons, unless provided against by a formal 
contract before the wedding. 






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